South Korea will work to double its outbound shipments of farm and fisheries products to US$16B over next five years, agriculture ministry says; government plants to invest up to US$1.85B by 2017

SEJONG, South Korea , September 25, 2013 () – South Korea will work to double its outbound shipments of farm and fisheries products to US$16 billion in just five years, the agriculture ministry said Wednesday.

Under its plan revealed at a government meeting chaired by President Park Geun-hye, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said it will invest nearly 2 trillion won (US$1.86 billion) by 2017 to develop new products and farming technologies.

"The government plans to invest up to 2 trillion won by 2017, with most of the amount to be spent on research and development projects to develop country-specific products," said Lim Jeong-bin, head of the ministry's food industry policy bureau.

South Korea's farm exports have been growing steadily with an average annual increase of 16 percent over the past five years, according to the ministry.

"The country's farming and fishing households are facing many difficulties stemming from the aging of their labor force and a rise in their costs," Lim said during a press briefing here.

"However, favorable conditions are being created to significantly expand the country's exports in the agricultural and fisheries sectors with an expansion of markets in neighboring countries such as China and Vietnam," he added.

China is fast catching up to Japan as the world's largest importer of South Korean food products, purchasing $467 million worth of products in the first half of the year, up 9.5 percent from the same period last year. Vietnam is the largest importer of South Korean products among the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which together purchased $1.19 billion worth of food products from South Korea in 2012.

The ministry said it will work to double the country's food and fisheries exports from $8 billion in 2012 to $16 billion in 2017.

To this end, the government will expand the number of export items with annual shipments of over $100 million from the current 13 to 23 while creating 10 large-scale fish farms to produce country-specific and high-value products, such as sea cucumber and abalone.

Efforts to boost the country's farm exports will also include administrative support, such as business consultations, for small exporters, including individual farmers, according to the ministry.

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