Monday, June 28, 2010

Interview: Mr. Chang Tae-pyong, Minister of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries is taking efforts to make the food industry as the next growth engine, by encouraging foreign investors. The government has chosen “Profit-making Agriculture and Fisheries & Lively Rural Society” as one of its goals to pursue for the next five year term. In line with the government commitment, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries aims to upgrade agriculture from primary production-based industry into advanced industry which encompasses processing and marketing so that our agriculture and fisheries can compete in a global arena.
Mr. Chang Tae-pyong, Minister of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries tells us of his plans to promote Korea’s food industry as well as to attract more foreign investors in the national food cluster that is to be established in Iksan city.

>>MIFAFF will focus on creating an innovative agriculture and fisheries industry as the next growth industry for the next decade. We will stress importance to the following factors in order to take on the new innovative food policy:
-Reformation of the national agricultural cooperative federation and the national federation of fisheries cooperatives to be completed. Also, improvements in structure of agricultural and fisheries industry need to be made through stabilizing rural households’ income.
-Expand the new growth engines and promote high value-added branches such as innovative seed and bio-tech industry in order to set a new policy.
-Supply safe food through providing environment-friendly agricultural products, supply stabilization of agro-fishery products including rice, expansion and globalization of Korean food.
-Expand the rural farming and fishery business and revitalize the rural community in order to activate the regional economy
>>Despite the stagnation of agriculture in Korea, MIFAFF has been paying serious attention to sustainable growth of the food industry, and has selected it as a potential growing industry to create remarkable value.
In this context, MIFAFF decided to promote the national food cluster that will overcome the limits of low technology of the Korean food industry. We started by benchmarking the successful cases of Food Valley in Netherlands and Oresund Cluster in Denmark and Sweden.
Hence, the export-oriented national food cluster -Foodpolis- was announced to be formed in Iksan city by 2011 and it is our aim to become a hub of Northeast Asia’s food industry. Foodpolis (239ha) will set up an active manufacturing, processing and export system through a liaison with Saemangeum and Korea Food Research Institute (to be relocated in Jeollabuk-do). Inside the complex, about 150 research institutes and domestic/international companies will be attracted to promote traditional, functional and organically processed food. Also, about 6 government-supported facilities, such as cluster support centers and R&D centers, will support in developing special technologies, functional evaluation and boost competitiveness of the companies in residency.
>>The key goal of MIFAFF is to expand attraction of foreign direct investment into agro-food industry. In order to create the Foodpolis as a foodhold of FDI, MIFAFF will designate Foreign Investment Zone and grant various incentives such as supplying a low rent long term lease and support funds for agricultural policy and R&D.
MIFAFF will also give an impetus to attracting foreign investments by cooperating with professional investment agencies- EUCCK and Invest Korea. Moreover, we will constantly make efforts to seek ways to draw foreign investments in Fund of Funds for agro-food (KRW 100 billion) by 2011, high-tech glasshouse, and capital-intensive agri-business.
In early July, MIFAFF appointed a consultative committee comprising renowned food companies (Danone and Nestle), distributors (Homeplus) and quality-testing institutions (SGS). The committee will advise on foreign investment in the Foodpolis and will help to promote the national food cluster to related food companies. Also, the committee will participate in the workshop hosted by MIFAFF and visit the places like Foodpolis in Iksan and Saemangeum reclaimed shore, to discuss about  investment programs and improvement of the foreign investment conditions.
>>The European Union, with the world’s largest economy ($10 trillion), is the second partner to conclude FTA (official agreements to be signed in late 2010) with our country.
MIFAFF has been seeking ways to take measures for agriculture and fisheries houses to help from opening the market. In particular, the recent Korea-EU FTA is expected to threaten the livestock industry and we will try to come up with a radical reformation of the industry. For example, the market share of the domestic beef after resumption of U.S. beef is increased by implementing place-of-origin indication system and beef traceability: 44.2% (2004) → 47.6% (2008) → 49.8% (2009). Also, the planted areas for grapes after Korea-Chile FTA is rather increased by 12.1%: 1,641ha (2003) → 1,842ha (2006) → 1,840ha (2007).
Thus, FTA and DDA can be worked as a chance to increase agricultural trade with neighboring countries with huge market like China and India. China’s interest for health and well-being could impact on the country’s export for food companies as well as the whole agricultural sector.