The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Minister Chung Hwang-keun, MAFRA) announced that it has successfully operated strawberry-only export flights since last year, which have been sent to support the export of strawberries, one of the major export items of Korea, to overseas markets.
Strawberries are mostly produced from December to April of the following year and then exported. In order to address global logistics disruptions caused by COVID-19, Korea sent exclusive flights for strawberries to Singapore last year and then to Hong Kong this year.
MAFRA explored a new channel for export by providing the loading space in a stable manner, in cooperation with Korean Air, as the export of strawberries suffered logistics issues due to reduced number of flights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 385 exclusive flights for strawberries (227 to Hong Kong, 158 to Singapore) were sent over the past five months, carrying 1,584 tons of strawberries or 93% of the export volumes destined to Hongkong and Singapore during the same period.
* Exports to Hong Kong and Singapore (from December 2021 to April 2022): A total of 1,713 tons / 1,584 exclusive flights (92.5%)
Export farms and businesses said that strawberry-only export flights supported the export of the fruits in a good season even during the COVID-19 situation, keeping them fresher and expanding their market share in the premium markets. Also, thanks to the fixed rates which are lower than the market rates, logistics burden on export businesses was eased amid the situation where high logistics charge continued.
* Rates of exclusive flights for strawberries of Korean Air: 2,100 won/kg for Hong Kong and 5,200 won/kg for Singapore
** Market rates: (December 2020) 1,600 won/kg for Hong Kong and 4,300 won/kg for Singapore → (November 2021) 2,100 won/kg for Hong Kong and 6,300 won/kg for Singapore
< Examples of Farmers’ Reaction to the Exclusive Flights for Strawberries >
<Example 1> A farmer (aged 45, in the 5th year of farming) in Goryeong, Gyeongsangbok-do was satisfied with the choice to export strawberries and said, “I thought about giving up on exporting strawberries amid COVID-19. However, thanks to the government’s logistical support including the operation of exclusive flights for strawberries, high-quality strawberries were exported to other countries including Hong Kong, better satisfying local importers and consumers while increasing my income compared to the time when strawberries were released to the domestic market alone.
<Example 2> A farmer (aged 39, in the 3rd year of farming) expressed gratitude to the government’s support and said, “I could produce high-quality strawberries thanks to the government’s project to distribute high-quality seedlings. Also, thanks to the strawberry-only export flights, strawberries could be exported at the right time and recognized as premium fruits in Singapore, promoting good qualities of Korean strawberries.”
Meanwhile, the export of Korean strawberries went down by 15.2% year-on-year due to reduced domestic production and COVID-19, etc. However, the average export price went up by 14.4% year-on-year thanks to efforts to upgrade the quality by distributing high-quality seedlings, providing training and education on cultivation technologies, and building the cold chain system in collaboration with exclusive flights.
* Total exports: (from December 2020 to April 2021) 60.0 million dollars, 4,500 tons → (from December 2020 to April 2021) 50.8 million dollars, 3,400 tons (down 15.2%, down 25.9%)
** Average export unit price: (from December 2020 to April 2021) $13.2/kg → (from December 2020 to April 2021) $15.1/kg (up 14.4%)
Some of them were recognized as products of the best quality and sold at double to triple the price of products of general quality.
* Exports of products of the best quality: 1.7 tons (0.3 tons to Hong Kong, 1.4 tons to Thailand), price sold at local markets: 75,000 won/kg (price of products of general quality: 25,000 won in Hong Kong, 44,000 won in Thailand)
MAFRA plans to promote Korean strawberries so that they can continuously establish themselves as product items which represent the premium image of Korean fresh agricultural products in overseas markets.
The Ministry will enhance the safety and quality of the products and provide support for stable logistics while nurturing new promising export varieties to meet the various preferences. It will also strengthen marketing activities to explore new markets such as the Philippines and Mongolia, other than the current major export destinations, with the popularity of K-Food and Hallyu, or Korean wave.
Director General Jeon Han-young of the Food Industry Policy Bureau from MAFRA said, “Last year, the exports reached 65 million dollars, an all-time high despite difficult export conditions including the outbreak of COVID-19. Going forward, we will identify issues that can arise over the entire course of export from production to local marketing and provide necessary support. Also, we will make continuous efforts to maintain strong export of strawberries by randomly inspecting the export logistics environment to actively address issues.”