Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. (aT) marked its 50th anniversary on Dec. 1.
Here is a look at how the corporation has evolved with changing times by coping with challenges over the last half century.
The corporation was established on Dec. 1, 1967 under the name of Agriculture & Fishery Development Corp. (AFDC), with a mission to increase the incomes of farming and fishing households by storing and handling agro-fishery products and nurturing a processing industry. The moves were part of the government’s policy to promote both agriculture and industry by making old fashioned farming and fishing villages come alive and reduce income gaps with industrial complex areas.
The AFDC was also charged with agro-fisheries-related business projects, which have higher public interest or the ones that could not be implemented by the private sector.
The significance of demand management for agro-fisheries products was highlighted in the wake of skyrocketing red pepper prices, caused by a severe drought in 1987. The AFDC soon inaugurated a body designed to stabilize agro-fisheries product prices. The most important function aT has performed for half a century is to stabilize agro-fisheries product prices by purchasing agro-fisheries products at harvest and releasing the stockpiled items on the market in times of price increases.
In December 1986, the AFDC was changed to the Agricultural and Fishery Marketing Corp. (AFMC) to carry out a new function of improving distribution channels for agro-fisheries products. The AFMC faced with another task: how to compete with global agricultural markets for the first time during the 1990s.
The corporation was charged with improving the fundamentals of the Korean agricultural industry in the wake of the conclusion of Uruguay Round Negotiations in 1994 and Korea joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. The corporation, which had mainly focused on stabilizing agro-fisheries product prices, then shifted to an export-oriented paradigm to usher a new era.
In 2002, the AFMC established the aT Center, an advanced agricultural convention center in Yangjae-dong, Seoul, and changed to the aT, the abbreviation of the corporation in 2005 to declare a vision of rising to a global public entity specializing in business marketing. aT named after the initials of “agro-Trade.”
In 2012, the corporation changed to the current name Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. (aT) as it declared its “second founding” to nurture the food industry as a new growth engine on top of distribution and exporting. In 2014, aT relocated its headquarters to the innovative city of Naju, Jeollanam-do, as part of the government’s policy on balanced development of the nation.
aT President Yeo In-hong said in an interview, “(We’ll) make all-out efforts to shore up far-sighted policy fundamentals of the Korean agricultural industry by enhancing the values of the industry with an unlimited potential and convergence abilities based on project capabilities we’ve accumulated for half a century.”
President Yeo, who took office in October 2016, changed aT’s management tenet to “making farming households make a living.” He has summed up four core tasks: expanding exports, stabilizing agro-fisheries product demand and supply, and improving of the distribution sector, and nurturing the food industry.
President Yeo has redoubled efforts to export agro-fisheries products with a focus on diversifying export countries. His export diversification efforts have already begun to pay off. Korea logged agro-fisheries food products worth $8.2 billion in the first 11 months of this year, the highest-ever one. The export figure is more than expected, given the fact that exports to China suffered a 8.2 percent decline in the wake of China’s retaliation against the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) in Korea.
aT has been stressing the stabilization of supply and demand as a prerequisite for boosting agro-fisheries exports. To this end, aT President Yeo has come up with a project to establish a demand and distribution information system based on big data. The corporation is now working on a system in which people will be allowed to take a look at demand, supply and distribution of agricultural products simultaneously.
aT has been overseeing the management of all information related to the agricultural products that are handled since last year. The corporation is working on unifying codes, a subject of criticism.