The Korean national food cluster FOODPOLIS in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do, whose construction is to be completed by December, will serve as an advance center to nurture Korean agricultural produce and the food export industry, targeting the growing Northeast Asian market. The completion comes about three years after the project to build FOODPOLIS broke ground in 2014.
Food Industry Policy Dir.-Gen. Kim Duk-ho of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said, “We plan to hold investment attraction sessions in Korea and abroad and visit companies with the goal of attracting 160 companies and research institutes by 2020. With the relocation of the Korea Food Research Institute (KFRI) to the innovative city of Wanju, part of efforts to ensure the efficient operation of the national food cluster, a food R&D belt will be built among the KFRII, FOODPOLIS and the Rural Development Administration to offer three-dimension R&D support to tenant companies,” he said.
“We’ll endeavor to help industries create good jobs and expand the use of Korean-grown agricultural produce, so that it may boost famers’ incomes. The ministry plans to lay a foundation for growth of the food and food service industries by nurturing functional foods and other strategic foods, supporting R&D and reinvigorating the FOODPOLIS,” he said.
The following are excerpts of an interview between NewsWorld and Food Industry Policy Dir.-Gen. Kim in which he spoke of his bureau’s food industry policies, including the globalizing of Korean food.
A bird-eye view of the Korean national food cluster, dubbed FOODPOLIS, whose construction is to be completed soon in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do. (Photos: MAFRA)
Question: Would you tell our readers about the achievements the food and food service industries have made, and your future plans?
Answer: The food and food service industries have so far been expanding in terms of size and job creation. Korean food has gotten a good reception, and the industries have seen a boost in agricultural food exports.
We’ll endeavor to help those industries create good jobs and expand the use of homegrown agricultural produce, so that it may boost famers’ incomes.
The ministry plans to lay a foundation for the growth of the food and food service industries by nurturing functional foods and other strategic foods, supporting R&D and reinvigorating the Korean National Food Cluster, dubbed “FOODPOLIS.”
We’ll accelerate efforts to diversify export markets, cope with non-tariff trade barriers and strengthen exporters’ competitiveness so that benefits of agricultural produce exports may be spread to wider realms, including the agriculture industry and SMEs.
A scheme to globalize Korean food restaurants will be overhauled so that it may be connected with consumption and export of Korean agricultural produce and foods and the expansion of the Korean restaurant and dietary industry’s overseas entry. The ministry strives to provide support to stabilize management of restaurants and dietary businesses by assisting collaboration among them and boosting dietary tourism.
Collaboration models between the agricultural industry and companies will be expanded to ramp up connection with the agricultural industry, while the ministry will also implement projects to nurture traditional wine and foods.
Q: Would you elaborate on the future direction of policies to boost exports?
A: The Korean agriculture and food industries’ entry into the global market is essential to overcome the limitations of the market and create added values.
Our ministry will evolve good practices among export promotion policies while improving the ones the outside has wanted to complement. First, we’ll build a virtuous cycle of exports in which a boost in agricultural exports leads to more profits for farmers, SMEs and other participants.
The ministry will prevent excessive competition by forming integrated export bodies to boost fresh agricultural produce exports, which contribute to raising farming households’ incomes while strengthening quality and safety management by building a regime to support farming exporters.
The ministry will help farming exporters nurture their capabilities through export consulting and field counseling, while offering a comprehensive package of support in all stages ranging from market survey to improving of products, and the exploring of foreign markets.
We’ll redouble efforts to diversify export markets, which are now concentrated on a few countries, such as Japan, China and the United States. In an effort to make inroads into Southeast Asian markets with a high growth potential, export outlets will be expanded by establishing platforms for Korean agricultural produce in large-sized distribution channels and setting up home shopping outlets. Market exploration teams will be dispatched to conduct market surveys, hold export negotiations with buyers and test markets. Untapped markets will be targeted, including India, Central and South America, and Africa.
The ministry plans to expand basic infrastructure for exports by building a joint export logistics system and offering R&D support. We’ll endeavor to lay a smooth foundation for exporters by strategically addressing matters required to have discussions among nations like talks on quarantine through diverse channels.
Q: How do you plan to address high trade barriers?
A: Currently, tariff barriers are improving, but there is a tendency in which such non-tariff barriers like quarantines and safety management are getting more stringent. Food companies find it hard to deal with them on their own.
The government conducts regular surveys to determine grievances that exporting companies face and provide consulting services through 84 specialized networks in 19 countries, comprising law firms, customs specialists and tariff companies.
In order to address institutional changes, the ministry plans to work out response manuals for major items, including pears and kimchi. That will be done according to countries, particular circumstances, such as the U.S. act on the modernization of food safety that goes into effect on a gradual basis from 2018. As custom clearance complaints and grievances in China are on the rise, we’re analyzing uncleared cases and offering steps to prevent a recurrence. Foreign food certification support centers provide information and provide support for certification like substance analysis to eliminate certification trade barriers, including halal certificates.
Q: Would you touch on the current status and future plans of a project to build the Korean national food cluster FOODPOLIS?
A: A national food cluster is now under construction covering about 700,000 pyeong (2.21 million sq. meters) of land in Iksan, Jeolla-bukdo, with the goal of making it an advanced center to nurture the Korean agricultural produce and food export industry targeting the growing Northeast Asian market.
The progress of the construction of the industrial complex, now standing at 84.4 percent, is to be completed by the end of this year. The national food cluster attracted 42 food companies and research institutes as of the end of September.
A food venture center has signed contracts to accommodate 31 tenant companies. Six corporate support institutes, including a food quality safety center, a functional evaluation center, and a packing center, are now in operation to offer services to support tenant companies.
We plan to hold investment attraction sessions in Korea and abroad and visit companies with the goal of attracting 160 companies and research institutes by 2020. With the relocation of the Korea Food Research Institute (KFRI) to the innovative city of Wonju, part of efforts to ensure the efficient operation of the national food cluster, a food R&D belt will be built among the KFRII, FOODPOLIS and the Rural Development Administration to offer three-dimension R&D support to tenant companies.
The use of agriculture produce from the region will be expanded by helping tenant companies secure a smooth supply of raw agricultural produce and connecting producers through utilizing of NonHyup’s distribution networks.
Q: Would you comment on the achievements of a project to globalize Korean food?
A: The project has begun to bear positive outcomes: A foundation to promote Korean food has been established through efforts to spread Korean food abroad, and the global standing of Korean food has improved markedly. A global halllyu (Korean Wave) survey of 7,200 people in 2016 in 15 countries showed that Korean food ranked as the most popular part of the Korean Wave abroad, accounting for 47.1 percent, followed by fashion/beauty (41 percent) and K-Pop (33.4 percent). With the rising awareness of Korean food and its popularity, Korean restaurants abroad and the number of Korean food companies entering foreign markets are on the rise.
The rising popularity of Korean food ends up boosting the exports of Korean agricultural produce, including raw ingredients of Korean food such as traditional bean paste products. The ministry plans to come up with such policies as the strengthening of the competiveness of Korean restaurants in Korea and abroad, developing Korean recipes, conducting surveys on the Korean food industry, and the supporting of civil “PR ambassadors.” These are geared towards inheriting and evolving traditional Korean dietary culture, boosting consumption of Korean agricultural produce, and expanding Korean food companies’ overseas reach.
Q: What steps are essential to create an environment in which food makers and dining businesses can consume Korean-grown agricultural produce?
A: Food makers and dining businesses saw consumption of Korean-grown agricultural produce stand at 43 percent as of 2014. Their expanded use of Korean-grown agricultural produce will be conducive to boosting farming households’ incomes and stabilizing the supply of agricultural produce. Food makers and dining businesses don’t find it easy to raise the portion of Korean-grown agricultural produce, due to such issues as price gaps with agricultural imports, quality and a stable supply.
The government will redouble efforts to develop varieties of foods as part of efforts to expand the number of those using Korean-grown agricultural produce. We’ll provide support to develop centers for agricultural produce to secure price competitiveness by lowering production costs.