Grapes for the futureKorea is a country that exports grapes, while we also import more volume. The rate of increase is clear, and since 2011, grape exports have been growing by 25.4 percent annually. Korean grapes are exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States and New Zealand and to Southwest Asian countries with tropical fruits such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan. As the quarantine agreement with China concluded in 2015, Korean grapes are expected to be exported to China soon.
Grapes have painful memories to Koreans. When Korea and Chile signed a free trade agreement in 2003, there were considerable oppositions due to its impact on Korean agriculture, especially the grape industry. Chile is world’s biggest grape importer, and people worried that Chilean grapes would dominate the Korean market.
However, despite the concerns, the grape industry has been stable with efforts to enhance competitiveness. Among many varieties, the “blue chip” is the Shine Muscat. In the past, 70 percent of grapes grown in Korea had been dark-red Campbell Early grapes. Shine Muscat are green and can be eaten with the skin on. Their sugar content is 22 brix, twice as sweet than Campbell Early grapes.
To secure solid overseas distribution channels, the Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp. invited buyers from China’s premium market to a consultation session and is negotiating for deals. In late July, when grapes are beginning to ripen, farm tours, tastings and promotional events are scheduled. We will do our best to have people around the world— China, the Southern hemisphere, Americas and Southwest Asia — taste Korean grapes and give a thumbs up.
*CEO of Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation.