Targeting $1 billion Export: Korean Gov’t to Nurture Seaweed to Be ‘Semiconductor of Food Industry’ | BusinessKorea

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The Korean government is to nurture the seaweed industry to become the nation’s future growth engine, like semiconductors.
The Korean government is to nurture the seaweed industry to become the nation’s future growth engine, like semiconductors.
14 September 2017 - 1:45am
Choi Mun-hee

The Korean government announced, on September 12, the strategy to develop the seaweed industry.  Forming a “Plan for US$1 Billion Export by 2024,” the government is to nurture the industry to become the nation’s future growth engine, like semiconductors.

The government decided to start marketing seaweed overseas in November, when new seaweed is ready to be sold. The government’s promotion plan focuses on selling seaweed at a discount to China, Japan, the United States, and 15 other countries for a two-week period to give countries the chance to try Korean seaweed.

Seaweed is already a promising export item. Commonly thought of as side dishes, seaweed is exported in various forms to more than 90 countries across the globe. In 2007, seaweed exports totaled US $60 million (approximately 70 billion won), and that the figure grew six times to US$353 million last year. The amount accumulated by August this year surpassed the record of last year, reaching US$371 million. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (MOAFF) predicts that the figure could exceed US$500 million by the end of the year.

The ministry noted that seaweed has increased remarkably in terms of the weight of agro-fishery exports. 10 years ago, it ranked 10th among the agro-fishery exports, but jumped to 3rd in 2015. This year it competes with tuna for the 2nd place, while outrunning ramyeon and ginseng 5 years ago. If seaweed surpasses tuna in exports this year, it will be the first time in 49 years that seaweed becomes the top export item among fishery products. Japan is currently Korea’s top seaweed importer (US$78 million last year), followed by the United States (US$70 million), China (US$68 million), Thailand (US$55 million). In the United States, seasoned seaweed is popular as a healthy, low-calorie snack.

In order to increase the competitiveness of seaweed exports, the Korean government plans to introduce a rating system similar to that for beef. There will be five classifications based on quality for consumers to choose from. The ministry plans to implement this system early next year.

In the future, consumers will be able to find seaweed on flights and cruises as well. They will be delivered to airplanes in 5g packs. Asiana Airlines ran a test last year and discovered that the snack was particularly popular among passengers in the China and Southeast Asia regions. They plan to promote it as a healthy snack that can replace the standard peanuts.

This has also led to a project to switch “chi-maek (chicken and beer)” for “kim-maek (seaweed and beer).” A beer festival held in Singapore last month marketed the concept as a collaborative project with Singapore beer brand Tiger Beer. Gong Doo-pyo, director of Export and Processing Promotion Division at the ministry, said, "Compared to chicken, seaweed is a healthier snack to eat while drinking,” and that “seaweed is actually a popular snack abroad.”

The government has formed a council with the public and private sectors to further develop the seaweed industry and has created a promotion center in order to develop new varieties of fast growing marine plants including seaweeds.

In addition, as it has been pointed out that small enterprises are crowded causing an over-competition, the government is planning to restructure the industry. To that end, the government is to create a “Seaweed Industry Belt” centered on Hwaseong City of Gyeonggi Province and Mokpo City of South Jeolla Province.


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