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[Herald Interview] From kiwi to beef, Chile looks for greater access

Chile has been a reliable provider of agricultural products to Korea for many years and is looking to expand and hasten new products into the local market.

Beef is big business and one that brings heated debate whenever a new country is looking to establish its product in the minds of local consumers.

Currently, Korea bans beef from countries that do not vaccinate their cattle against foot and mouth disease.
Chile Agricultural Minister Jose Antonio Galilea (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
Chile Agricultural Minister Jose Antonio Galilea (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)

“We have been free of this disease without vaccination for the past 30 years,” said Chile Agricultural Minister Jose Antonio Galilea to The Korea Herald.

Under the 2004 Korea-Chile free trade agreement, terms were established to remove tariffs on several agricultural products.

“There are many agricultural products that we would like to quicken their imports into Korea,” he said. “Our main interest is promoting red beef and blueberries.”

Galilea remarked that the Chilean supply chain could provide high quality and competitive prices for beef imports.

During his visit to Seoul last week, Galilea discussed this issue with local government officials including other important issues like a revision of the current FTA and kiwi fruit imports.

Korea currently imports half its beef from Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States, and is close to resuming beef imports from Canada.

“It makes sense from our part to reevaluate the current situation of the FTA, especially considering that Korea will have new FTAs with other countries coming into force,” he said.

Chile, as a main agricultural provider to the world, has also signed several agreements with other nations.

“It is important for us to put into the agenda any adjustment on the scheduled reduction of import taxes,” he said.

Concerning kiwi fruit, New Zealand firm Zespri International signed a deal with E-Mart last year to become its exclusive supplier of kiwi fruit.

“This is a problem that we are very concerned about because it reduces competition and reduces the possibility of Korean consumers having the access of a wider variety of products to choose from,” explained Galilea.

Zespri International has denied allegations it is deliberately setting out to exclude Chilean kiwi fruit from the local market by establishing exclusivity deals.

“If such a situation would take place in Chile, consumers and the public authorities would be concerned because such an action would mean a direct threat to competition and free markets,” he added.

To circumnavigate this surprise move by Chile’s leading competitor, Galilea said that Chilean exporters are currently strengthening their agreements with Korean chains that still offer Chilean kiwi fruit.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)
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