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The IFPA leads mission to grow fresh produce exports to South Korea

The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) is deepening produce trade connections for Australian and New Zealand exporters as South Korean consumers seek out new lines and eating experiences. 

The IFPA’s Global Development Committee and East Asian Task Force conducted a fact-finding mission facilitated by Korean Business Services Inc. to explore opportunities within the South Korean marketplace during a visit to Seoul. 

Activities included retail visits to Garak Market, Lotte Market and Costco Korea and a cultural excursion. 

IPFA managing director A-NZ Ben Hoodless said there was a strong desire from a South Korean delegation from across the supply chain for the IFPA to present a unified approach to developing global fresh produce imports.

“The visit was an exploratory first step. Continuous efforts to understand market dynamics are crucial for the success of IFPA members and to create opportunities for international fresh produce suppliers entering the South Korean market,” said Hoodless. 

Hoodless said that because of weather events in 2022, South Korea now relies on imported food with annual imports of food and agricultural products totalling around $50 billion. 

“Domestic horticultural production in South Korea has traditionally been and continues to be very important. However, severe weather events in 2022 significantly impacted apple and tree crops leading to increased imports. 

“Specifically, it imports $1.7 billion worth of fresh fruits, nuts and other processed fruit and expects a further increase in imported fresh fruits. This is due to climate change and the need to diversify and satisfy a population of some 51 million that has an appetite for new, fresh, and healthy,” said Hoodless.   

The United States, Spain and Mexico are South Korea’s top three exporters of fruit while China, Mexico and the Netherlands are the top three exporters of vegetables. 

Hoodless said Australia and New Zealand’s reputation for producing clean, safe produce presented significant potential for the export of tropical and sub-tropical fruits.

“A rising middle class and increasingly tech-savvy population is driving the demand for a broader array of fresh produce as well as produce that has a year-round supply or health and wellness appeal,” said Hoodless. 

Hoodless continued to say South Korean consumers were keen to try new foods and wanted to know the origin of the produce. 

They also demanded premium produce and understood the value of paying a premium for healthy, high-quality lines. 

It’s fast emerging as an exciting market with significant potential for global fresh produce imports and specifically for Australian and New Zealand producers,” said Hoodless. 

Hoodless said South Korea’s huge online market was growing exponentially in line with an increasingly time-poor population. 

“Consumers continue to pay higher prices for good experiences, premium, shared value products and tailored solutions. Western brands are seen as trusted, safe, and reliable,” said Hoodless.  

Going forward, Hoodless said the next phase was to build networks and systems to connect South Korea’s importers and influencers to the IFPA’s global membership. 

“South Korea is open for business and we’re working towards developing our region’s influence,” said Hoodless.  

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