A farmer picks strawberries at a farm in Nonsan, 213 kilometers south of Seoul, on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's agricultural ministry said Thursday it will send chartered flights to Singapore to support exports of strawberries, as local farmers have been facing troubles in shipping their produce amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
Under the plan, South Korea plans to send Korean Air Lines Co.'s planes weekly through April to promote the exports of strawberries, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The move came as the COVID-19 pandemic has virtually suspended global air travel, hindering outbound shipments of fresh produce.
The first batch of strawberries will be sent Friday, with a goal of sending 1,072 tons of the product over the next five months.
Singapore is the second-largest export destination of strawberries for South Korea. In 2019, the country shipped 1,421 tons of berries worth $13.7 million, according to the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp.
"Due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, local farms and businesses are facing troubles in exporting strawberries. The agreement will pave the way for them to send strawberries to Singapore," the ministry said in a statement.
South Korea said it will also consider exporting strawberries via ships. Currently, nearly all of the volume is sent via air.
The ministry said it will continue to work with Korean Air to expand such flights to other countries as well.
The agricultural sector has been among a handful of winners for South Korea's exports amid the economic jitters from the virus pandemic.
Outbound shipments of the area rose nearly 7 percent on-year over the January-November period, setting a fresh high despite the pandemic. (Yonhap)