South Korea shipped 5 tons of “geobong” — a species of grapes — to China, marking its first-ever export of fresh fruit to the country, said the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Tuesday.
Agriculture Minister Lee Dong-phil and representatives of 13 local vineyards in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, saw the premium quality geobong grapes, also dubbed the kyoho grapes in Far East Asia, set sail for Chinese shores.
The exported brand is “Haneul Green,” a signature geobong brand of Cheonan. Haneul Green was exported to Taiwan earlier on Sept. 9 and to Vietnam on Sept. 15, reflecting the fruit’s popularity in Asian fresh food market.
The export to China did not come overnight, however. The first Korean export of geobong to China came after six years of bilateral negotiations, which began in May 2009.
Despite looming concerns about China’s lackluster economy, the South Korean authorities showed confidence in the Chinese healthy food market.
Earlier on the day, the Asia Development Bank cut its forecast for China’s economic growth this year to 6.8 percent from 7.2 percent, and expected the fall would sag down Korean growth, citing Korea’s high trade dependence on China.
“Despite China’s economic slowdown and fall in average purchasing power, we are positive that China has strong demand for healthy, high-end fresh foods,” an official of Agriculture Ministry’s export promotion department said.
“China has a huge market and demand — succeeding in attracting only the top 1 percent wealthy Chinese customers would mean a lot to the exporters for sure,” the official added.
The communist country has been the world’s largest food market since 2013, after overtaking the U.S.
Yet the ministry officials remained uncertain about whether the shipment of grapes would kick-start the export of other fruits and fresh foods to China.
“The inspection process of fruits and other fresh agriculture products has never been easy,” said an official of Agriculture Ministry who is closely involved in the matter.
The ministry has been in talks with Chinese authorities about selling Korean paprika in China since 2007, but an agreement has not yet been reached.