Korea goes bananas for fruit

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Korea goes bananas for fruit

Fruit imports exceeded $1.2 billion last year to reach a record high as consumer tastes have continued to grow outside of Korea’s traditional crops and orchards.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service on Monday, the country imported $1.24 billion won worth of fruit in 2017, up 126.1 percent compared to a decade ago, when just $530 million worth of fruit came into Korea.

In terms of weight, a total of 834,000 tons of fruit were shipped into Korea last year.

Bananas were the most popular imported fruit, with $370 million worth of bananas from countries such as the Philippines entering the country, about 30 percent of total fruit imports last year. Oranges were the second-most popular imported fruit for Koreans with about $100 million of oranges arriving in Korea.

Mango imports, although relatively low compared to more popular choices such as bananas and oranges at $50 million, also grew dramatically in the past decade, up 700 percent from 2008.

“Mangoes became a popular choice for food and beverage companies, pushing up imports,” explained an official from the customs agency.

But no fruit saw its popularity shoot up as much as avocados.

In 2017, about $30 million worth of avocados were imported to Korea, up 155.7 percent compared to 2016 and 1,458.3 percent compared to 2008.

The customs agency thinks that Korea’s fruit imports are likely to see yet another record-breaking year.

“The steady increase in fruit imports continues this year,” said an official from the customs agency.

From January to July this year, Korea’s fruit imports came to $1 billion, up 7.6 percent compared to the same period last year. Avocado imports this year have already exceeded the shipments from last year at $33 million, thanks to the rising popularity of beverages and desserts made from the green fruit, such as the Avocado Blended from Starbucks.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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