Opinion

South Korean Strawberry Exporters to Boost Asian Expansion

Fresh Strawberry
South Korea
Published Jul 23, 2021
Strawberry exporters in South Korea will be looking to expand their Asian market by supplying air-flown premium strawberries to countries from Hong Kong to Thailand. This was after a very successful pilot program where the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the K-berry organization signed a multilateral business agreement securing flights dedicated to helping strawberry exporters supply the Singaporean market. This initiative has made strawberry exports rise by 25% in the first five months of this year and reached a record of USD 49 million in export value. The successful pilot program has Korean producers interested in exploring the Asian market more.

Record-Breaking First Half of the Year

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of South Korea, the country's exports of strawberries reached USD 49 million in the January-May period, up 24.7% from the previous year. The record export growth of fresh strawberries in Korea is due to a combination of several factors that have occurred in the industry this year. The first would be regarding a robust strawberry output this year along with excellent quality fruit. In addition, big red strawberries with a strong fragrance have led to South Korea´s strawberries establishing a well-known reputation among Asian countries. This has led producers with sufficient quantities to satisfy the Asian premium markets, which are now experiencing a rising demand for the fruit after pandemic restrictions have been lifted.


Source: ITC Trade Map, Tridge


The biggest market for Koren strawberries is Hong Kong, with 32.7% of the export share, followed in order by Singapore (26.5%), Thailand (14.6%), Vietnam (12.3%), and Malaysia (7.2%). The country exports to about 20 countries, including the US, New Zealand, and Canada. In 2020, strawberry shipments reached USD 53 million, a 13% increase year on year from the 2016-2020 period. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, exports have increased from 2019 due to a supported charter program for outbound shipments to Singapore supported by the government.

A Successful Export Pilot

The Korean strawberry export organization K-berry, the Korea Agro-Fishery and Food Trade Corporation (aT), and Korean Air signed a multilateral business agreement securing flights dedicated to strawberry exports to Singapore. The pilot program announced by the Ministry of Agriculture last December aimed to help local strawberry farmers that are facing troubles in shipping their produce amid the pandemic. From December until the end of May this year, the country has operated 88 chartered flights to Singapore with fresh strawberries.

Singapore is the second-largest export market for Korean strawberries after Hong Kong. In 2020, the country shipped 1,280 tons of strawberries to Singapore worth USD 14 million, which is a 2% increase from the previous year despite the pandemic. The successful chartered program aims to be replicated for other important Asian markets like Hong Kong and Thailand and promises to boost overall exports for South Korea´s strawberry producers.

South Korea Export Outlook

South Korea has set the goal of increasing exports of strawberries to USD 65 million this year, which would represent up 20% from the previous year. If the government is able to secure more flights dedicated to strawberry exports throughout the Southeast Asian region, the goal must likely be reached and even surpassed. According to the K-berry organization, there is an ongoing negotiation with Korean Air to operate four chartered flights a week to carry a total of 958 tons of strawberry to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

Covid-19 had reduced air travel and affected most of the exporters in its ability to reach international markets. If this agreement is reached, Korean producers will face a unique competitive advantage in the Asian region, while other producers in the region are still facing difficulties to export due to the prolonged period of Covid-19. With this, South Korean producers will be able to expand their market share throughout the Southeast Asian market within the premium strawberry sector

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