Kimchi is a representative dish in Korea, but the country has been marking a trade deficit as cheap versions produced in China have been increasingly taking a bigger share in the market. In response, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced Thursday a five-year plan to develop the “kimchi industry,” to reclaim the country’s lost glory as the “nation of kimchi.”
The ministry noted that consumption of kimchi has been continuously decreasing due to “Westernized diets.” According to the World Institute of Kimchi, per capita consumption at homes stood at 25.3 kilograms in 2015, down 11 percent from five years earlier. Meanwhile, cheap kimchi imported from China has been taking a larger share of the local market. It is estimated that more than half of kimchi provided at restaurants or cafeterias is from China. As a result, Korea recorded a $47.3 million trade deficit in the dish last year.
According to the blueprint, the ministry will focus on enhancing the competitiveness of locally produced kimchi, in terms of both price and quality. By enhancing the quality of Korea-produced kimchi, it plans to pull up the global market share to 70 percent from the current 65 percent, as well as achieving a balance in kimchi trade.
Most of all, the taste and quality of kimchi will be standardized, amid complaints consumers currently have little information on the “proper” taste. The degree of saltiness, hotness and sourness will be labeled on kimchi in three or five categories, depending on the content of sodium and capsaicin, as well as acidity.
Industries manufacturing kimchi-based home meal replacement products will also get support for their research and development (R&D) efforts.
“As the home meal replacement market is growing explosively, the ministry will increase support of R&D efforts to provide diverse kimchi-based dishes,” an official said. Diverse kimchi-based meals tailored to each export market will also come, as seen in the success of “kimchi tacos” in the United States.
The ministry is seeking to expand the market of kimchi-based dishes to an annual 350 billion won by 2022 from 180 billion won in 2016.
Targeting the health supplement food market and senior citizens, it will bolster R&D of “novel kimchi,” which features the special health function of kimchi stemming from its lactic acid. A number of studies have confirmed the lactic acid in kimchi can help prevent diverse diseases such as atopic dermatitis and diabetes.
It also plans to nurture other industries related to kimchi, such as the salted napa cabbage industry. To facilitate the kimchi-making process, consumers often buy salted napa cabbage with which they can make kimchi right away. It has grown into an annual 180 billion won market, and the government plans to expand it further to 250 billion won as well as setting up safety guidelines.
Regarding imported kimchi, the ministry said it will strengthen monitoring to prevent it from being passed off as locally produced.
Source: THE KOREA TIMES