SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Korea Bizwire) – Vietnam has become the largest importer of Korean ginseng in Southeast Asia, a market that China is aggressively chasing to erode Korea’s lead, a trade group said Tuesday.
According to the Ho Chi Minh office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), South Korea exported 1,362 tons of ginseng to Vietnam last year, totaling US$9.46 million. The amount is the largest among Southeast Asian countries and sixth in the list of nations that buys South Korean exports of ginseng. Vietnam was also the only country in which both the volume and monetary value of ginseng exports increased from a year before.
Compared with 2010, ginseng exports to Vietnam increased 93 percent in volume and 32 percent in value, according to the KOTRA office. A separate market survey in September showed that 85 percent of Vietnamese consumers had purchased Korean agricultural products at one time, and among them, 29 percent bought ginseng, much higher than 18 percent for Korea’s popular side dish kimchi.
“Korean ginseng is high in quality and relatively expensive, so it makes for good gifts,” KOTRA said. “A luxury department store in Ho Chi Minh said that it has prepared its own wrapping material for local consumers who mostly buy red ginseng tablets as presents.”
China, on the other hand, is going after the Vietnam market with low-priced products and has been drawing success, according to KOTRA. China was able to double its exports of ginseng roots to Vietnam over the past five years to 28 percent, compared with Korea whose exports of the products fell from 83 percent to 55 percent.
Some of the Chinese products were discovered to be falsely packaged as Korean brands, KOTRA said.
Korea’s exports may also be hurt as Vietnam cultivates its own ginseng to lower its dependence on imports, it said.
“Low-price and fake products from China are quickly expanding in the Vietnamese market,” KOTRA said. “Korean companies need to differentiate themselves, based on quality, and seek a luxury image strategy.”