Another round? Japan makgeolli binge wanes

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Another round? Japan makgeolli binge wanes

Was the makgeolli, or rice liquor, craze in Japan just a fad?

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Korea yesterday, the export volume of makgeolli in April tumbled 69.4 percent from a month earlier to 1,600 tons worth $1.6 million. Due to a weak yen versus the Korean won, the value of exports nose-dived 74.4 percent during the one-month period.

On the back of the huge popularity of Korean dramas and actors, makgeolli emerged as the hottest liquor among Japanese fans between 2008 and 2011. But makgeolli exports to Japan and other smaller markets, which peaked at as much as $52.76 million in 2011, fell 30.1 percent to $36.89 million last year. In the first four months of 2012, shipments of makgeolli to Japan fell 52 percent from a year earlier.

The ministry said Thursday it would come up with measures to support makgeolli producers in anticipation of the continuing devaluation of the yen versus won. As an initial step, it will designate three to five smaller liquor producers outside Seoul this year and develop tourism programs with them modeled after some popular sake breweries in Japan. The ministry plans to earmark $1 billion for the initiative.

The ministry has also decided to raise the ceiling of currency-fluctuation insurance policies for food exporters from $500,000 to $1 million. It created the insurance policy products in March.

Meanwhile, canned coffee and instant coffee mix have emerged as popular food items for the Japanese. Their combined export volume last month totaled 124 tons worth $853,000, up 895 percent and 4,558 percent month-on-month, respectively.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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