South Korea's Agricultural Food Exports by May Near $4 Billion, Driven by Ramen Boom

  • Wed, 12 June 2024

South Korea's Agricultural Food Exports by May Near $4 Billion, Driven by Ramen Boom

South Korea's agricultural food exports, commonly referred to as “K-Food,” have approached a remarkable $4 billion as of May this year, driven by a surge in demand for processed foods, particularly ramen.

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) said on May 4 that the agricultural food export reached $3.96 billion from January to May this year, which reflects a 7.6% year-on-year increase.

The export of ramen has been a standout performer, exceeding $100 million for two consecutive months. 

In May alone, ramen exports amounted to $107.3 million, contributing to a cumulative export value of $486.2 million from January to May this year, marking a 36.2% increase compared to the same period last year.

Notably, ramen exports to China and the U.S. saw significant growth, with increases of 27.7% and 71.4%, respectively.

While fresh food exports decreased by 1.8% year-on-year to $616 million, processed food exports surged by 9.5% to $3.344 billion. 

The popularity of Korean snacks and beverages has also contributed to the export boom. 

Snack exports increased by 12.6% year-on-year to $291.6 million, bolstered by the expansion of Korean bakery franchises in the U.S. and the recovery of bakery ingredient exports to Japan. 

Kimchi, a staple of Korean cuisine, has seen a 6.4% increase in export value, reaching $70.7 million. 

The U.S. and European markets have been particularly receptive, with kimchi exports to these regions increasing by 25.8% and 37.5%, respectively. 

The introduction of new products, such as shelf-stable kimchi, and expanded entry into major retail stores like Walmart and Costco have driven this growth.

The U.S. has emerged as the largest export market for South Korean agricultural food products, surpassing Japan and China. 

Exports to the U.S. increased by 17.8% to $610 million. 

A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs noted, "The U.S., which was the third-largest market after Japan and China until last year, has now become the largest export market." Additionally, South Korea's economic policies and trade agreements have facilitated the export of its products, contributing to the success of 'K-Food' in international market. 

Consumer trends towards healthier eating and diverse culinary experiences have also played a role in the increasing demand for Korean food products. 

With strategic market penetration efforts and a growing global appetite for Korean cuisine, the export value of South Korean agricultural food products is expected to continue its upward trajectory.