OPPORTUNITIES IN KOREA
ANY DEMAND FOR our commodities – large or small – is important; and we need to develop and foster as many market opportunities as we can. The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) opened up new possibilities within that market that Ontario producers can take advantage of. Soybeans will provide our biggest opportunity, but there is potential for us to grow our wheat and corn exports as well.
After the Agreement was signed, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend Minister Ritz’s Program to the Republic of Korea where I was able to meet with industry leaders and get a first-hand appreciation for the way in which our commodities are used in their country. The program included representatives from 35 different Canadian agricultural organizations.
One of the things I was amazed at was the vast variety of products that were available at a grocery store we visited. Their market is definitely consumer-driven and it’s obvious that Koreans love to shop daily for their fresh food items and they also enjoy going out to restaurants frequently. What I realized was this demand for freshness was also a demand for quality.
The production of soybeans in Korea is used solely for food. But even with a domestic supply available, many companies are now sourcing from Canada because they believe we offer a better supply of high quality soybeans. Processors are finding they can use fewer soybeans to make their products, such as tofu and miso, and still meet their strict standards.
The CKFTA will make importing our soybeans more cost-effective as it now allows for 17,000 MT of duty-free IP non-GMO soybeans. This also means we are no longer at a market disadvantage to the US which has enjoyed a duty-free trade agreement for several years.
During the program, I also met with one of Korea’s largest importers and processors of grains and specialty crops, as well as the Korean Flour Millers Industrial Association. Both of these tours provided the opportunity to highlight the reliability of the Canadian supply of grain.
These programs are a valuable learning tool and by providing the time to meet with processors, importers, and local government officials, they are also important relationship- building opportunities. It’s important they know we consider them a valued market — even if they aren’t our largest. •