Moon Soo-ho, the CEO of Sugok Dugchon Farming Association Corporation located in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do, has pioneered the market in Southeast Asia since the first export of strawberry maehyang varieties to Japan in 2002. The Corporation is known for its strict quality control, such as immediate withdrawal of exporting from farms with low commodity value of strawberries. The business can only be resumed once the problem is completely improved and accepted again as an export quality. With this effort, exports to Southeast Asia have been steadily expanding as high-quality honey strawberries have captured the taste buds of the global citizens.
▲ What is the know-how of producing the world's best honey strawberry?
-The average weight of exported maehyang varieties is about 15g, which is a bit small. The fruit color turns from scarlet to deep red once it’s ripe, and the sweet fragrance is outstanding. The sugar content is around 11 to 12 brix and excellent quality of strawberries is cultivated with thorough nutrition management. The export-strawberry farmers carry out pesticide inspection to ensure safety before shipping. In strawberry production, the Corporation has strengthened the shipment management by focusing on maintaining the safety standards required by importing countries. The strawberries with unknown reliability are not allowed to be exported, those detected during the screening process. In particular, as the exporters are provided with individual ID, the producer is traced right away once any defect is found from the fruit, whose export activity is stopped until the problem is fixed.
▲ What are the characteristics of the exported strawberries?
The strawberries we produce are well-liked around the world that they are recognized as exported strawberries. Recently, the production base has been expanded, and the total cultivation area is 22 ha. The annual output of 500 tons of strawberries is exported, accounting for about 11% of domestic exported strawberries. Especially, maehyang varieties are popular with international buyers due to its exceptional taste, fragrance and texture. Compared to other varieties, while it requires a delicate cultivation method, the produced volume remains small yet the sugar content is high. Since its first export of USD 150,000 in maehyang varieties to Japan in 2002, exports have expanded throughout Southeast Asia in 2017. In the recent years, it has exported to Russia, the United States, and Dubai. Although Japan's first export volume was only 150 million KRW, it has become the most popular item among buyers, including 3.5 billion KRW in 2016 and 4.2 billion KRW in 2018.
▲ What is your strategy for expanding exports?
Hong Kong has a large export volume of 45% of strawberries produced in Korea, but the pesticide residue standard is strict. Although available pesticides are limited, exports are steadily increasing through meticulous safety management and ongoing repeated training. In addition, overseas consumers are also changing their size preference for strawberries from large to small. As the purchase demand of importing countries continues to increase, we plan to expand exports by escalating production volume. In order to improve the commodity value for export expansion, we operate our own agricultural safety management team. On top of this, all export farmers are getting ready to computerize their strawberry farming record to systematically manage the production further. In the long term, we visualize expanding exports to US$ 10 million per year by diversifying export markets.
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