US companies project $67 million growth in sales from South Korea trade mission

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US companies project $67 million growth in sales from South Korea trade mission

Last week, representatives from 49 U.S. companies and organizations joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an agribusiness trade mission to Seoul, South Korea.

With U.S. agricultural and related products to South Korea totaling more than $8 billion in 2023, this is an important destination, posing as the 5th largest country for U.S. exports.

The trade mission was led by Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Alexis M. Taylor.

During a media call on Monday, Taylor said the USDA’s second-ever trade mission to Korea showcased the diversity of U.S. food and agricultural exports to the country. 

The delegation included 36 businesses, 12 agricultural associations, and five states were represented including Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kansas, and North Dakota. 

The USDA will be hosting a total of seven trade missions to support U.S. food and agricultural businesses, make connections, and expand their competitive positions. 

“South Korean consumers and importers recognize U.S. food and agricultural products for their reliability, quality, and sustainability,” said Secretary Taylor. 

She added that South Korean consumers value food safety and that the U.S. brand is “strongly associated with this matter.”

“We have the safest food in the world and the U.S. is known for that,” said Taylor. 

Exporters and businesses that joined the mission conducted 616 meetings with potential importers and buyers. Taylor said that participating companies reported around $67 million in projected sales during the next year from those meetings.   

Export products

Even though the main U.S. products exported to South Korea are beef, pork, seafood, and wheat, Taylor says they see really strong interest in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. 

“South Korea is key to our export market diversification plans in this part of the world,” Taylor said. 

According to Taylor, several Oregon blueberry exporters who were part of the trip had a very good reception and could make on-the-ground sales. 

Don Lamb, the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture who joined the trip said these trade missions are a great opportunity to meet with buyers in person and learn about the country’s culture and politics to become better partners. 

Taylor said it is important to showcase the diversity of products that the U.S. can export and how that can benefit Korean consumers. 

One of the industries pushing this effort is fruit exporters out of California, looking to expand its presence in Korea. 

The Tree Fruit Association of California, which already exports its products to Korea, joined the trip in search of new clients. 

Biotechnology regulation and gene editing

Taylor said a big part of the mission was meeting with Korean officials and tech providers to discuss the science of exports. 

She said the U.S. has a risk-based process for global trade which she was able to share with counterparts. 

“We also spoke about gene editing, and discussing what regulations may or may not look like for these products, and I think we’ve seen many countries heading in a positive direction to allow these technologies to be adopted by our farmers who need more tools in the face of climate change,” said Taylor. 

These technologies help products be more resilient to weather variability. 

Looking ahead in 2024, the USDA will lead a trade mission to India, where tariffs on 10 products were reduced last year. 

“We are excited to start rebuilding that consumer base and market share in India after years of retaliatory tariffs,” said Taylor. 

Later on, the USDA will head to Canada, Colombia, Vietnam and Morocco. 

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