By Carla Espinoza Gutiérrez

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service announced Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis M. Taylor arrived in Seoul Monday to launch a new agribusiness trade mission in South Korea.

Announced publicly in mid-March, the trade mission with Secretary Taylor in Seoul includes 48 U.S. companies and organizations.

Local FAS Seoul staff will host business meetings between U.S. trade mission delegates and Korean companies looking to import American food and farm products. 

The itinerary also includes bilateral meetings with Korean industry and government officials and retail promotions featuring U.S. products.

“South Korean consumers appreciate the quality and reliability of U.S. food and agricultural products. I’m excited to introduce the U.S. companies and their diverse lineup of products to this important market,” Taylor said. 

The latest trade mission will seek to “develop the partnerships and foster collaboration critical to facilitating the long-term relationships that will form the basis for expanding U.S.-South Korea trade,” the under secretary said.

“I’m confident the engagements planned here in Seoul will deliver mutually beneficial results.”

A Free Trade Agreement with the Asian nation was introduced in 2012, boosting a bilateral trade relationship that led to South Korea ranking as the USA’s fifth-largest market for agricultural and related products in 2023. 

Today, the U.S. and South Korea trade in more than $8 billion.

Related articles: USDA trade mission seeks to promote U.S. agribusiness in South Korea

Opportunities in the apple market

Korea does not allow imports of fresh apples, and currently only domestically produced supplies are available on the market. However, U.S. producers could find a promising market, should South Korea update its import policy. Demand remains healthy, with industry sources estimating an ideal apple supply for Korea above 500,000 MT.

However, Korea’s apple production fell by 25% in 2023-24 after orchards suffered a series of adverse weather events in 2023. Yields were 23% below average in 2022-23 too, as premature flowering followed by spring frost, and subsequent heavy rains, hail, and extreme heat during the summer damaged fruit and led to disease outbreaks. 

Consequently, retail apple prices soared leading into the September Chuseok holiday as stored apple supplies ran short. This prompted the government to offer coupons to ease the burden of rising fruit prices.

Should the latest trade mission prompt changes in regulations for apple imports, this drop in production could pose great opportunities for the U.S. apple sector. With Korean consumers faced with surging prices and lesser quality as only options, additional supplies could help ease demand.

U.S. Production is forecast up 56,000 tons to 4.4 million as good growing conditions spur a recovery in Washington state output following last year’s damaging spring weather. The state continues to be the leading apple producer in the United States.