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PIA Press Release

South Korea market ripe for Mindanao fruits, aquaculture

Davao City (21 April) -- South Korea, already one of Mindanao's largest export markets for high-value fresh and processed fruit, offers still more opportunities for Mindanao producers eager to expand into global markets.

This was among the findings of a one-day reconnaissance of retail outlets in the capital city of Seoul, conducted by USAID's Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program in partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA).

South Korea, which imports about 70 percent of the food consumed by its 48 million citizens, is one of the most rapidly-expanding markets in Asia for fresh and processed fruits and fruit juices. The market is also characterized by robust consumer demand for seafood products.

"Koreans have shown a growing preference for health foods, including processed organic products and specialty fresh fruits," pointed out a member of the reconnaissance team. "There are market niches here that can be filled by Mindanao producers."

South Korea has highly efficient food distribution and logistics systems, and many of its biggest retail chains and distributors have outlets in other countries.

The spot check conducted by the GEM Program and the DA in five retail outlets revealed that various food items already being sold in South Korea, or with strong market potential, can be sourced from Mindanao.

These retail outlets included branches of leading department chains Hyundai and Lotte, as well as a Filipino "Sunday market" in Seoul.

South Korea, a large consumer of seafood products, is among the top buyers of high-value fresh seafood from Mindanao, accounting for 94 percent of the region's total direct exports of abalone in 2008.

The retail stores and the Sunday market visited by the reconnaissance team carried frozen bangus (milkfish) and canned sardines from Zamboanga.

Some processed fruit items?such as banana chips?were readily found in these outlets, but Philippine dried mango was harder to find. Mindanao direct exports of dried mango to Korea totalled only two metric tons in 2008.

However, certified organic dried mango from the USA was being sold in Hyundai Department Store, the leading high-end retail chain, for approximately $135 per kilo, about five times the price of the Philippine dried mango.

At Lotte Mart, fresh cavendish bananas displayed stickers indicating that they had been grown in North Cotabato. Seņorita bananas were also available at about $7.50 a kilo, almost double the price of the cavendish variety.

Most of the fresh mango and pineapple found in the stores were from Thailand or the Philippines. The Thai fruits were slightly more expensive, although the ones spotted by the reconnaissance team were not being sold in the same outlets as the Philippine fruits.

There also appears to be strong potential for frozen fruit. The GEM Program, which is assisting Mindanao producers to expand their market reach in South Korea, said that frozen mango and banana were items which drew significant interest from buyers during last year's Seoul Food and Hotel expo.

The Filipino stall market held every Sunday at Hae Hwa Dong, is more than a source of longganisa and tocino for Pinoy residents looking for a taste of home.

The market is seen by traders as a likely entry point for introducing new Mindanao food products to local consumers, since the Korean importers and retailers who facilitated the entry of the Philippine items on sale at the Sunday market also market these products to other outlets.

A key requirement in gaining acceptance for food products, distributors told GEM, is proper labelling: South Koreans are sophisticated consumers who want to know food items' nutritional content and shelf-life, among other details.

Items imported from Mindanao must be labelled with Korean-language stickers that cannot be easily removed, and that must not obscure the original labelling.

The increasing trend among Mindanao growers and processors to adopt international food safety and quality standards, combined with more globally oriented marketing strategies, will also help open more doors in South Korea and other promising markets. (GEM) [top]

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