[ROSTRUM]Standards benefit agricultureQuality control systems in the United Kingdom started with standardizing rails as new railroads were built, and that paved the way for the establishment of the British Standards Institution in 1903. In 1918, trademark laws were enacted to allow industrial product manufacturers to protect their ideas from being copied. The idea of protecting trademarks began to expand to other countries, which contributed to the establishment of the International Organization for Standardization.
In Korea, an industrial standards system was set up in 1961. Products must meet the KS standard to protect consumers.
In 1996, an agriculture product quality certification system was introduced to enhance the agricultural competitiveness of Korea.
The system, however, has not been very effective. Improving the commercial edge of agricultural product is not easy because, unlike industrial goods, the marketability of agricultural produce does not improve through standardization. The quality certification system did not fit well with Korea's agricultural produce distribution system centered around wholesale markets.
In the United States, the leading agricultural exporter in the world, the commercialization of agricultural products has been successful thanks to localized agricultural quality certification projects. The United States has also managed its export of sulplus agricultural produce strategically. Japan has established a thorough quality management system for all kinds of agricultural produce. It strictly regulates the quality of imported agricultural produce, which has been a headache for Korean farmers.
Likewise, if a local product certification system is established, trust in agricultural products will be improved, which will make it easier for Korean farmers to find buyers and save transaction costs, and consumers get quality produce at lower prices.
Our agriculture distribution system will have to change when our markets are opened, though. The best defense against foreign competition is to provide safe and standardized produce that meets consumers' needs. We have to differentiate our agricultural produce from imported products and improve the complicated distribution system.
One piece of good news is that local governments and private companies in South Chungcheong province recently agreed to an agricultural produce quality certification project to improve local products' competitiveness. With the introduction of the system, the local governments and private companies there can distribute their goods more efficiently, improve their quality and use sophisticated packaging. They can also use logistics centers to distribute their wares directly to discount stores and other large buyers.
The business to business task force team at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy will start a local agricultural produce quality certification system similar to that of South Chungcheong province. I expect the projects to be a driving force to boost agricultural competitiveness.
The writer is a senior manager of B2B business division at Ebzline.co.
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