SEOUL, May 21 (Korea Bizwire) — The number of South Korean companies raising or processing insects for foodstuffs, pets and other purposes grew threefold in 2018 from three years earlier, data showed Tuesday.
According to the data compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the number of insect companies in the country came to 2,318 as of last year, rising sharply from only 726 posted in 2015.
The ministry said the figure increased sharply on-year in 2016 and 2017 after the government officially recognized seven species of insects as food ingredients, although the number managed to edge up 8.3 percent on-year in 2018 on the intensified competition.
The research showed the white-spotted flower chafer beetles were the most popular species, with 1,305 firms raising them to produce food in 2018, followed by Japanese rhinoceros beetles, which were grown as pets by 425 companies.
Other popular edible insects included crickets and mealworms, with stag beetles also being favored here as pets.
The combined sales from such insects came to 37.5 billion won (US$31.4 million) in 2018, up 8.7 percent from a year earlier.
The ministry said its survey showed the sales of white-spotted flower chafer beetles came to 15.3 billion won, becoming the highest-revenue insect species last year. Crickets posted 4.6 billion won, with that of Japanese rhinoceros beetles reaching 2.6 billion won.
Around 33 percent of the farms surveyed raised insects in vinyl greenhouses, reflecting the need to apply smart technologies to improve their productivity, the ministry also said.
The size of South Korea’s insect market was estimated at 264.8 billion won and is anticipated to reach 361.6 billion won in 2020, the ministry said, citing research conducted by Seoul National University.