17:32 | 25/06/2016 Trade
(VEN) - The South Korean food market with an annual growth rate of 35-40 percent has proved to be very attractive. However, most Vietnamese businesses are worried whether their products meet food safety and hygiene regulations of the Republic of Korea (RoK).
Attractive but hard to access
At a recent workshop held by the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade in association with the ASEAN-Korea Center, a representative of the RoK Embassy in Vietnam said that with a population of 50 million and per-capita gross domestic product of US$27,000 per year, the RoK is a potential food market. Food trade between Vietnam and the RoK has grown and reached US$1.7 billion in 2015, including US$1.2 billion worth of Vietnamese exports to the RoK.
Although the RoK is an attractive food market, Vietnamese businesses, even including experienced companies, are still hesitant to access it. Ngo Duc Sinh, Chairman of the Board and General Director of the Kim Boi Agriculture and Forestry Products Joint Stock Company, said the RoK was a paradise for food and bamboo shoots in particular, but exports must overcome strict barriers, especially food safety and hygiene regulations. For example, only one kind of citric acid is allowed to be used in preliminarily processing bamboo shoots, while there are four or five different kinds of citric acid; iodine is absolutely forbidden to be used in refining bamboo shoots.
Other requirements related to packaging, expiry date, and color durability have also proved to be hard-to-overcome barriers.
Duong Xuan Thuong, Head of the Agricultural Products Department of the Vietnam Northern Food Corporation, said exports to the RoK must meet strict requirements in terms of quality and just accounted for three percent of the corporation’s total export value. “The corporation exports products mostly in their raw form with low added value,” he added.
Quality must be top priority
Kim Nam Hyong, a representative of the Amoje Group, said South Korean standards on food imports were very high that can be compared with those of the US and Japan. The South Korean food market is growing rapidly with the participation of large groups, so Vietnamese businesses need to give top priority to product quality, not price.
South Korean consumers prefer to buy preliminarily processed or ready-made food. Fast food and traditional food from other countries are becoming popular. However, the flavor of these kinds of food needs to be adjusted to suit the tastes of South Korean people. “It won’t be difficult for Vietnamese businesses to access the South Korean food market if they learn carefully about the tastes of local people and create differences in product quality and packaging,” Kim Nam Hyong said.
Ra Joohee, a representative of the Pulmuone Group, said Vietnamese goods could access the South Korean market in a variety of ways. In her opinion, supermarkets are an effective and easy-to-access channel to help Vietnamese food enter the RoK. Vietnam should concentrate on exporting tropical fruit such as mangos, rambutans, and durians in either raw or processed forms.