Market Information   >   Food News Clipping

Food News Clipping

November 20 - 28, 2023


FAS/Seoul Monitoring of Media Reporting on Agricultural Issues 

Today's Date: Friday,  December 1,  2023

For Coverage:  November 20 ~ 28, 2023


Vanishing Fish-Shaped Bread Street Stalls... Advent of New Place for Fish-Shaped Bread

Summary:  Bungeobbang, which is a fish-shaped bread dessert that is popular as a winter street food, was originally filled with red bean paste, but has evolved with various flavors and become a more famous winter street food.  According to the industry, prices this year have surged due to multiple factors like food cost inflation and the Ukraine-Russia war.  Due to these factors, many of the street vendors are disappearing.  Seizing the opportunity, convenience stores are leveraging their accessibility and lower prices to sell this treat.  Last year, fish-shaped bread on Gangnam streets was priced at 1,000KRW for two pieces.  This year, prices have escalated to 3,000KRW to 5,000KRW, marking a three to fivefold increase from the previous year.  What was once an affordable snack is no longer accessible for ordinary citizens.  The Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation reports a 1.6 percent increase in red bean prices compared to last year.  Additional ingredients like cooking oil and sugar have risen by 3.6 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively, from the same period last year.  Particularly notable surge is flour prices, skyrocketing by 36.5 percent from two years ago, leading to dwindling profits for sellers.  This situation has spotlighted convenience stores, capitalizing on their financial resources to purchase or produce goods in bulk, reducing costs.  Additionally, their existing part-time workforce enables efficient production and sales of fish-shaped bread.  Convenience stores are witnessing a significant uptick in fish-shaped bread sales.  CU recorded a 72 percent sales surge from the 22nd to the 26th, compared to the preceding week, while GS25 saw a 29.6 percent increase in sales from November compared to the same period last month.  For the convenience store industry, fish-shaped bread serves as a tool to gain attention for customers during the winter season.  Winter is a season when convenience stores face a hardship due to decrease in customer visits from cold weather.  This dessert has proven to attract customers to convenience stores during winter. 


Rice Prices are Expected to Fall in December… 22.7% of Suppliers Plans to "Lower Prices”

Summary:  Rice prices are currently trending downward, and this trend is anticipated to continue in the coming month.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, along with the Korea Rural Economic Institute, as of November 15th, the price of rice stood at 49,820KRW per 20kg.  After a significant decline last year, rice prices were slowly recovering to normal levels.  However, a recent decline began last month, showing a larger rate of decrease this year, primarily attributed to increased stock pressures.  Supply industry attributed this price decrease to suppliers offloading larger quantities of rice to reduce their surplus stock.  This trend is expected to persist in the upcoming month as many suppliers prefer entering the market rather than selling to the government.  Consequently, around 22.7 percent of suppliers plan to lower rice prices next month, with an overwhelming 97.2 percent intending to either maintain or decrease their rice supply prices overall.  Recognizing the challenges within the rice industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs is actively seeking measures to address the declining rice prices.  They are exploring various strategies to alleviate the pressure caused by the surplus stock situation.


Preventing the Import of Overseas Direct Food Containing Theobromine, a Prescription Drug Ingredient, into Korea

Summary:  The Minister of Food and Drug Safety in Korea has declared that direct food imports, which include Theobromine as a raw material or ingredient, are now blocked from entering Korea.  Theobromine is a prescription drug ingredient that regulates the vagus nerve in the lungs, reducing symptoms like coughing.  However, it can lead to side effects such as dizziness, headaches, stomachaches, or vomiting.  Once inspected in Korea, both the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and Korea Customs Service will collaborate to detain the product.  They'll analyze the product and work with other entities to shut down online platforms selling items containing Theobromine.  Additionally, the Ministry plans to broaden its examination of more products and aims to disseminate information about the potential harmful effects and precautions associated with this substance.


Following Ottogi, Pulmuone and Lotte Well Food Also Withdraw Price Increases Due to Government Pressure

Summary:  The government's efforts to curb rising consumer prices led Ottogi to backtrack on their plan to raise food prices, followed by Pulmuone and Lotte Well Food.  Pulmuone aimed to increase prices on three yogurt products sold in convenience stores by 100 KRW from the current 2,200 KRW but withdrew in cooperating with the government.  Similarly, Lotte Well Food intended to raise prices by 10 percent on their ham products but also agreed to cooperate with the government.  Before these two companies, Ottogi initially planned a price increase for convenience store items but quickly reversed their decision. 

The government is actively monitoring 28 products daily, including bread, snacks, and milk, to address issues like 'Shrinkflation,' where products shrink in size but maintain the same cost due to price suppression.  The Minister of Economy and Finance is overseeing shrinkflation problems, where product size decreases but prices remain the same, and evaluating 209 processed foods, aiming to implement regulations after the assessment.

No Lumpy Skin Disease for Six Days... Discarding Regulations on Cows Entering and Exiting the Area

Summary:  The central authority overseeing Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) has stated that there have been 107 cases reported from the 20th of last month to the 20th of this month, and no new cases have been identified since the 21st.  Consequently, they've discarded the quarantine on cows moving in and out of farms.  However, farmers must now inform their district office and have their cattle inspected by a livestock control officer before moving them.  Additionally, cows need to be vaccinated, with a mandatory three-week waiting period if they want to move from the original area.

The central authority mentioned that with the colder weather, the transmission of LSD via insects is decreasing, reducing the risk of disease spread.  Therefore, in the Gochang area, the previous policy of culling all cows has been revised to selective culling, meaning not all cows need to be culled anymore.  Finally, since there are no new LSD cases, the central authority will now report the disease status once a day, down from twice daily.


The Possibility of Inflow of 2 Infectious Diseases of Animals in Korea… Government's "Preventive Measures"

Summary:  Following the Lumpy Skin Disease outbreak, the media is asking the Korean government to be prepared for other diseases that could impact Korea.  Two of the disease the media has flagged as having the potential to cause harm in Korea are African Horse Sickness (AHS) and Ovine Rinderpest, spreading to Korea.  Both diseases have a high mortality rate of 95% and are currently spreading in Asia.  The media is asking authorities from MAFRA and APQA to take preventive measures to curb the potential spread of these diseases.  Korea houses approximately 28,000 horses, with half of them in Jeju Island, and about 470,000 goats.  If these diseases occur in Korea, the impact could be severe.  If the situation gets like diseases such as LSD or Foot-and-Mouth Disease, when any animal is found infected, all animals in the area might be culled due to the diseases' short incubation periods and high mortality rates of 95% or even 100% for Ovine Rinderpest.  To prevent African Horse Sickness, the government conducts annual examinations of 1,300 horses every year and restricts imports from countries where the disease is prevalent.  Authorities are implementing both preventive and post-measures to combat the potential spread of these diseases.  However, as there's no global vaccine available, vaccination isn't currently an option.


“Jinro=Korean Vodka” … The Expansion of American Market of HiteJinro

Summary:  As HiteJinro approaches its 100th anniversary next year, the company is actively promoting its green bottled soju in America under the branding "Soju equals Jinro." Since their push for globalizing soju in 2016, interest in this spirit has been on the rise.  What used to be a product primarily for Koreans living abroad has now garnered attention among foreigners, thanks to the expansion of Korean culture worldwide.  HiteJinro notes that soju was relatively unknown to many Americans in the past, but it's now increasingly recognized as "Vodka from Korea." This shift indicates a growing awareness that soju is a distinct spirit originating from Korea.  With soju gaining popularity in the United States, HiteJinro is intensifying its branding efforts, positioning soju equals Jinro.  With the branding efforts, a key marketing strategy involves sports sponsorship, such as the 12-year sponsorship deal with the LA Dodgers baseball team.   However, as dining out becomes less frequent due to rising consumer prices in the States, HiteJinro found a niche opportunity.  They're focusing more on supplying soju to off-trade markets like liquor and retail stores.  This involves partnerships with local stores such as Costco, Target, and Total Wine.

Additionally, HiteJinro is venturing into the fruit-flavored soju market.  Recognizing that Americans prefer sweeter fruit liquors, they're offering fruit-flavored soju at a lower price compared to other similar products in America.  These strategies have shown promising results, with a 13 percent increase in sales of overall HiteJinro’s products for the first three quarters of this year compared to the previous year.

More Whiskeys and Less Wine

Summary:  According to the Korea Customs Service, whiskey imports have surged by 26.8 percent compared to the same period last year, reaching 26,937 tons.  This year’s imports are expected to surpass the previous highest record in 2022 of 27,379 tons.  The primary driver behind this increase in whiskey imports is the growing demand for highball drinks.  Highball, a mixture of whiskey and other flavored beverages, is gaining favor among consumers, enticing more restaurants to offer.  However, despite the significant rise in import volume, the sales volume has only increased by 1.5 percent.  Notably, cheaper whiskeys are often used in highball preparation, contributing to this discrepancy.  England holds the largest share of the import market, accounting for 80 percent of the imported whiskey, followed by America, Japan, and Iceland.  In contrast, wine sales have declined, with import volumes dropping by about 19 percent compared to the same period last year, resulting in an 11.6 percent decrease in sales volume.  This marks the second consecutive year of decline in wine sales.  Despite experiencing a surge in sales during the COVID era, the trend for wine sales continues a downward trajectory.

Ramen Led Export Sales Surpass $10 Billion This Year, 'The Highest Ever'

Summary:  The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs has reported that agricultural exports, including smart farm products, have surpassed $10 billion this year, marking a 1.2 percent increase compared to the same period last year.  Ramen exports have notably surged this year, reaching $840 million from $770 million last year.  This growth can be attributed to the widespread influence of Korean media globally.  The appearance of Korean ramen in the movie 'Parasite' contributed significantly to its global popularity.  Additionally, videos featuring BTS enjoying ramen have garnered attention from their global fan base, boosting the appeal of Korean ramen.  Export figures for kimbap and other processed rice products have risen, reflecting the increased demand for convenient and simple food options.  Furthermore, fresh fruits, particularly strawberries, have entered the export market, with exports starting in November and projected to increase by 30 percent compared to the previous year.  The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs is committed to supporting the global export of Korean food.  Their efforts include supplying necessary materials for exports and devising beneficial strategies for target export countries.

Next Year, '0% Quota Tariff' will be Applied for Potato Starch, Chicken, Egg Processed Products, Processed Corn, Soybean, and Raw Corn

Summary:  The government has decided to implement quota tariffs on 76 products to stabilize consumer prices, including food items like sugar, chicken, processed egg products, among others.  Alongside this decision, they're planning to increase the tariff rate quotas (TRQ) for 13 products such as sesame and soybeans, starting next year.  These plans, set to begin next year, will undergo legislative adjustments for a week starting on the 22nd.  This flexible tariff approach was formulated through consultations with stakeholders, industry partners, and the Korean tariff decision committee, and is scheduled for implementation from January 2024 onwards.  Quota tariffs are applied to products currently subjected to tariffs of 40% or lower, aiming to ensure a stable market environment.  Before implementing these measures, the government considered various factors, including free trade agreements (FTAs), leading to the decision to apply quota tariffs to 76 products. Among the items affected are food products like potato starch, sugar, crude peanuts, chicken, and processed eggs etc.   Moreover, for products currently exempt from TRQ or tariff, if import volumes become excessively high or prices significantly drop, additional tariffs will be imposed in line with UR Negotiation.  This is known as Emergency Tariffs on Agriculture, Food, and Rural Products.  The emergency tariff lists will maintain the same products for the following year, 2024.

Kimchi Exported to 93 Countries...  'Most Exports' from Preference for Korean Wave and Healthy Food

Summary:  In 2023, Korean kimchi exports have hit a milestone by reaching more than 90 countries, attributed by the global phenomenon of the Korean wave and the increasing popularity of healthy diets worldwide.  The focus on expanding exports to North America and Europe has notably driven this rapid increase.  According to the Korea Customs Service, between January and October 2023, kimchi exports have extended to 93 countries.  A decade ago, this number stood at only 61 countries.  Increased exposure through various media platforms has increased interest among foreigners wanting to delve into Korean culture.  Additionally, the rise of the vegan diet trend has positioned kimchi as a healthy dietary choice.  Professor Moon from Seoul National University highlighted the influence of Korean media on foreigners' food preferences, trying to follow their favorite idols or actors seen enjoying Korean cuisine.  A survey conducted by the Korean Food Promotion Institute across 18 global cities revealed that 38.3 percent of respondents associated Korean food with kimchi.  Among those who has tried Korean foods, Korean chicken was voted as the best, followed by kimchi.  Domestic companies have played a pivotal role in establishing kimchi as a global food item.  Daesang, for instance, has made substantial efforts, supplying kimchi to over 60 countries and establishing a factory in Los Angeles.  Plans are underway to construct another factory in Poland next year.  The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs reported a 10.1 percent increase in kimchi export sales from January to October compared to the previous year.  If this upward trend persists, it's projected to surpass the sales figures of 2021, when COVID-19 facilitated kimchi exports.  Moreover, several countries are actively working to designate November 22nd as Kimchi Day, symbolizing the 11 ingredients in kimchi offering 22 health benefits.  The United States, Brazil, and England are among the countries that have already embraced November 22nd as a day dedicated to celebrating kimchi.

Will Korean Alcohol Regulations that Hamper Domestic Alcohol Companies be Eliminated...  Korea Tax Service "Actively Reviewing for Improvements"

Summary:  The Korean government has declared its intention to ease regulations for domestic liquor companies, aiming to decrease the tax disparities between imported and domestic liquors.  These disparities have placed domestic companies in a disadvantageous market position.  Plans include establishing standardized sales ratios and revising regulations that restrict the development of traditional alcohols.  Additionally, the Korea Tax Service announced reforms during its Alcohol Policy Seminar, focusing initially on tax regulations.  Currently, domestic alcohols face complex taxation involving various components such as manufacturing and management costs, resulting in higher taxes compared to standard taxed imported alcohols.  Implementing standardized sales ratios would reduce taxes, subsequently lowering supplier and consumer costs.  This move aims to decrease the gap between imported and domestic alcohol pricing.  Also, traditional alcohol producers encounter challenges due to varying supply costs across distribution channels, making tax reporting cumbersome.  Suggestions have been proposed to simplify tax reporting, facilitating business expansion for these producers.  The Minister of the Korea Tax Service affirmed their commitment to tackling the discrimination faced by domestic alcohol in the local market.  Immediate efforts will focus on establishing standardized sales ratios and alleviating pressure on domestic soju and whiskey companies.

Ministry of Food and Drug Safety-Korea Customs Service's Inspection of Safety in Direct Food Import on Black Friday

Summary:  The Minister of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has announced a rigorous inspection of food items purchased directly from abroad into Korea, particularly those shipped via global mail or express services.  This heightened scrutiny will be conducted in collaboration with the Korea Customs Service from November 20th to December 1st.  This intensive inspection is prompted by the annual discount event of Black Friday, which spurs increased direct imports from companies to customers in Korea.  The Ministry aims to minimize the importation of harmful foods into the country by intensifying inspection efforts during this period.  During this inspection period, suspicious products will undergo external examination, and if necessary, the contents will be analyzed to identify any ingredients forbidden in Korea.  Detected harmful substances will result in the product being discarded and barred from entering Korea.  Buyers are urged to familiarize themselves with what constitutes harmful substances, information available on the website  The Ministry underscores its commitment to preventing harmful foods from entering Korea, particularly those that claim to enhance immune function, sexual performance, or facilitate weight loss.


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