Seoul, South Korea is a long way from southwestern Minnesota in many ways.
Not only is it more than 6,000 miles away in distance, the culture and lifestyle are very different from those we experience every day.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit South Korea as part of Governor Mark Dayton's trade team to Korea to learn about these differences and to assess opportunities for value-added ag products to find markets overseas.
About 10 million people call the city of Seoul home, so needless to say it is a very busy, active city with bustling traffic and crowds of people. There is a high cost of living, but a seemingly strong economy.
There is little land space for farming so food prices are high since a large amount of their food is imported. South Korea is already a significant trading partner with the United States, and the opportunity exists for that relationship to improve in the future.
Agricultural commodities are already exported to Korea in large quantities since they don't have the land to produce enough raw ingredients of their own. This presents an opportunity for Minnesota farmers.
There is need for soybean meal for South Korea's aquaculture industry. Korean companies like the quality of corn from the U.S. and there is interest in importing Berkshire pork.
There is more of a challenge when it comes to interesting South Korean companies in importing value-added ag based products.
They are very interested in keeping their own processing and manufacturing facilities operating, so they are more likely to import the raw materials needed to keep them operational than to bring in finished products. However, the doors for exporting finished products to South Korea aren't closed. Efforts will continue to identify and cultivate opportunities to get Minnesota ag-based products into new arenas.
I would like to offer special thanks to Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Soybean for co-funding my trip.
For more information on how AURI is working to get Minnesota agricultural products into innovative new places, give us a call at 507-537-7440 or visit us online at www.auri.org.