By Janet Nuzum, Associate Administrator for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service
I am writing this post from my hotel room in Korea, because I want to share with you some of my experiences on my first day here at the Seoul Food and Hotel Korea Trade Show. As the associate administrator for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, I am here in Ilsan, northwest of Seoul, for several reasons. Among the most important is to meet face-to-face with exhibitors and business representatives who are here to sell American agricultural and food products, as well as Korean importers, food processors, and industry leaders converging at this event, the biggest trade-only food show in South Korea. Up to 1,800 exhibitors are here in this huge, 49,000-square-foot exhibition space. More than 35,000 visitors are expected.
May 12, was the first day of this year’s show and I was privileged to represent the United States in the opening ceremonies. I joined Minister Chang, the Korean Minister for Food, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (MIFAFF), as a dozen or so dignitaries cut the ribbons signifying the official opening of this year’s show. As Minister Chang prepared to depart the show, he and I had a moment to chat informally. I was impressed by his warmth and sincerity as we both re-affirmed the interests of MIFAFF and USDA in working together cooperatively on areas of mutual interest and concern.
I then turned my attention to the USA Pavilion, which featured 36 exhibitors, representing a truly diverse range of U.S. food and beverage products including American meat products, fruits, cheese and a variety of other products. Last year, 30 U.S. exhibitors left the show with expected sales of $8.9 million in sales over the ensuing 12 months. This year, they hope to sell even more U.S. food and beverage products. Even if the contacts made here don’t lead immediately to sales contracts, several exhibitors told me that it is nevertheless important for them to be here, to be visible with the trade and showcase their products. Building a market presence is sometimes a long process, and participation in these types of trade shows introduces foreign buyers and consumers more quickly and effectively to the attributes and advantages of American products. The exhibits not only showcase the U.S. products, but also demonstrate ways to use and serve the products, whether American style or adapted to Korean style. Even the non-edible give-aways, such as the carrying bags with egg-head caricatures on them given out by the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, are a visual reminder of the likeability of American agricultural products.
Korea is already a very important trade partner for the United States. It is the third largest economy in Asia and the world’s 15th largest economy. This country is an economic powerhouse. My presence here emphasizes how strongly the United States values its long, strategic partnership with Korea, which began 60 years ago. As I meet with Korean officials, buyers, and traders, I have the opportunity to reinforce that partnership.
Looking back on the response of visitors to the food and beverages displayed at the USA Pavilion, I am optimistic that the demand for U.S. agricultural products is strong and our reputation as a reliable supplier of safe, wholesome food and agricultural products is excellent. Our FAS staff here in Korea in partnership with U.S. cooperators, NASDA, the state and regional trade groups SUSTA and Food Export-Midwest, as well as innovative and forward-looking businesses, have done an outstanding job of showcasing American food agricultural products here.