Qingdao reaping lucrative harvest with kimchi exports

By ZHU WENQIAN in Beijing and XIE CHUANJIAO in Qingdao, Shandong| (China Daily)| Updated : 2022-12-15

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Shoppers buy kimchi products during an expo in Qingdao, Shandong province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Qingdao, a coastal city in East China's Shandong province, is expected to export more processed kimchi to South Korea this year due to local vegetable price increases and inflation, and the trend has fueled business growth of more enterprises in Qingdao.

This year, Qingdao is expected to export 270,000 metric tons of kimchi to South Korea, accounting for more than half of the country's annual demand, according to Qingdao's bureau of agriculture and rural affairs.

Affected by extreme weather and inflation, vegetable prices in South Korea have soared this year. With strong price competitiveness, foodstuffs imported from China have been increasingly appearing on dinner tables there, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

Due to extreme weather such as high temperatures, torrential rains and typhoons in South Korea, the average price of cabbage has surged to nearly 10,000 South Korean won ($7.2) per head, as a result of devaluation of the local currency and other reasons, the country's Yonhap News Agency reported.

In the first 10 months of this year, South Korea imported a significant volume of kimchi to satisfy domestic demand. During the period, the total imported value jumped 30 percent year-on-year, and exceeded the full-year import value in 2021, according to the news agency.

Qingdao has seen a bumper cabbage harvest. This year, total output of cabbage in Qingdao is expected to reach 1.33 million tons, up 13 percent year-on-year, according to the city's bureau of agriculture and rural affairs.

Higher output has led to lower prices. Last week, the wholesale price of cabbage in Qingdao stood at 1.2 yuan per kg, down 56 percent year-on-year, according to Qingdao's bureau of agriculture and rural affairs.

Cabbages planted in Qingdao on the Jiaodong peninsula boast high quality and bountiful harvests, and thus a number of pickling processing enterprises have gathered in the city. Currently, there are more than 20 pickling processors above a designated size in Qingdao, and a large number of products have been exported to South Korea.

Qingdao Sankou Foods Co Ltd, a company specialized in the planting, research and development and production of pickled foodstuffs, sells more than 100 kinds of pickled products, including cabbage, radishes, chives and garlic.

The firm has exported pickled products to overseas markets such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Canada, and the export volume to South Korea accounted for about 30 percent of the total. This year, the export volume to all of its overseas markets grew about 10 percent to 20 percent over last year.

"We choose high-quality and fresh cabbage, and we don't use food additives in the production, while the water quality in Qingdao is also good. The taste of our products fits with the preferences of consumers in Southeast Asian countries. Besides, Qingdao boasts a geographical advantage in conducting the export business," said Li Jiafa, sales director of Qingdao Sankou Foods.

"We plan to make more efforts in R&D and expand our product categories to more food varieties. We have already launched other products like flavoring, self-heating chicken soup with ginseng, and South Korean-style hot pot seasonings," Li said.

Founded in 2006, the company now operates more than 100 franchised stores in total nationwide, and they are located in cities such as Qingdao, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Harbin, Heilongjiang province. Its products have been sold at major chain supermarkets, convenience stores and e-commerce platforms domestically.

In 2019, the company's second production base in the Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture of Jilin province started operation. Domestic sales accounted for about 40 percent of the company's total business, it said.