Reinforcing Korea’ agricultural competitiveness
On November 10, 2014, Korea and China officially announced the signing of the free trade agreement between the two countries. It was agreed that 36.1 percent of the 1,611 agricultural products were classified as highly sensitive items and 27.4 percent as sensitive items. The normal track includes 36.6 percent. Tariff on the general category is to be abolished within 10 years, and the tariff on the sensitive items will be removed between 10 and 20 years.
Also, the results of the negotiation list the items that are excluded from concession, including milk, eggs, apples, pears, rice, grapes, oranges, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables. The exclusion from concession means that the tariff is not removed or reduced in order to protect the agricultural products of Korea. However, as the rice market is to be opened completely this year, import of agricultural products and food products is likely to increase. Domestic vegetable and fruits need enhanced competitiveness.
Then what is the competitiveness of the Korean agricultural products? It is food safety. Lately, radiation exposure and the use of pesticides raise concerns for the safety of imported agricultural products. Before purchasing, consumers thoroughly check the place of origin as well as the farming methods to ensure safety.
To meet the global trends and demands of consumers, Korean agricultural products should win the trust of consumers with reliable quality and health safety rather than price. Agricultural products that are safe and reliable are the key to competitiveness. Consumers are interested in environmental friendliness and sustainability more than ever. Awareness for environmentally friendly agricultural products as well as trust between consumers and producers need to be established to urge the consumers make informed choices.
Lately, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation promote businesses that allow consumers and producers to communicate directly. The efforts would lead organic farming to become the future growth engine based on the awareness that environmentally friendly agricultural products, including organic products, are safe and healthy. It is the proactive response for enhanced competitiveness and market opening.
Crisis accompanies opportunities. Market opening would allow imported agricultural products to compete against domestic products. However, we can turn it into a chance to enhance consumer awareness and build a trusting relationship between producers and consumers for safe and healthy products.
Park Sung-shik, Chairman of the National Eco-friendly Agriculture Association