SEOUL, April 7 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean rice hit shelves in Beijing for the first time in history on Thursday to meet rising Chinese demand for Korean-made agricultural products and foodstuffs.
China’s state-run agricultural trading company COFCO Corp. imported some 72 tons of South Korean rice in February and put it on sale in an upscale supermarket of BHG Indigo department store in Beijing.
It is the first time that the Korean staple grain has been exported to China, while South Korea imports 200,000 tons of Chinese rice every year in accordance with the mandatory import quota set by the World Trade Organization.
“Exports of rice represent our efforts to help South Korean agricultural products go overseas,” Agricultural Minister Lee Dong-phil said during a ceremony marking the arrival of the Korean rice in Beijing. “It also marks the first step to strike balance in the rice trade between the two countries.”
He said he will make efforts to tap deeper into the world’s biggest rice buyer that imports an annual 2.5 million tons.
The Chinese sale of South Korean rice came nearly a decade after the Seoul government asked Beijing to open the market, which had been blocked by the Chinese government’s tough quarantine requirements.
In a Korea-China summit meeting in September last year, their leaders agreed to ease quarantine regulations on South Korean rice.
Following the agreement, some 30 tons of rice went to Shanghai and 72 tons to Beijing since the beginning of the year.
The South Korean government expects that a total 2,000 tons of rice will be shipped to China by the end of this year, with the total amount of outbound shipments reaching 4,000 tons.
Exports of South Korean agricultural products to the world’s second-largest economy have been on a steady rise in recent years as the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, is spreading Korean culinary culture and cuisine from TV dramas and the K-pop boom.
Some US$1 billion won worth of South Korean food was sold in China last year, with the figure projected to rise to $1.4 billion this year.’