▲ Fresh organic vegetables such as these are sold to local school cafeterias by “Goods,” an organic produce supplier on Jeju. Photos by Kim Gyung Ho
For those of you who are fans of organic food and supplies, I had the opportunity recently to meet an energetic businessperson who has devoted himself to this green trade. Bang Hyun-Chul is the owner of “Goods,” a supplier of organic produce.
In 2003, Bang was looking for new business opportunities in his resident area of Incheon, the burgeoning area outside of Seoul. However, he became enamored with the beauty and lifestyle of Jeju. He recalls, "I love all watersports, from jet skiing, to diving, boating and swimming. I even became a certified lifeguard through the Red Cross instructors program." Jeju was calling him.
An entrepreneur at heart, he began looking at the various opportunities on Jeju and immediately was attracted to the growth potential in the organic food industry. Instead of a retail path he began to focus on a wholesale approach, sourcing out and establishing relationships with Jeju organic farmers.
Over the last five years he has established his company as one of the main suppliers of organic food supplies to public schools all over the island. The timing was also fortuitous. The public school board has set clear directives for cafeterias to serve high quality, organic food to students. The stated objectives were for 70 percent of school cafeteria food to be organic by 2008, 90 percent by 2010 and then 100 percent. I wonder how this compares to Canadian public school standards?!
"The nutrition and quality of the food served to children is of course a high priority in the minds of parents, and I focus on sourcing out, first of all, local Jeju produce. This requires establishing close relationships with the farmers that I purchase from," Bang said.
He has to ensure that all the food goods in fact, do meet organic standards.
"The land used to cultivate produce must be free of pesticides and chemical use for at least three years. I also hope it is a win-win situation between the food producers and the end users (students)," he said. Instead of the produce going through several layers of distributors before it reaches the school cafeterias, Goods provides a reliable and steady market on behalf of the farmers to the schools and a more equitable market price of the participants can be achieved with fewer middlemen.
In Jeju, many varieties of organic fruits and vegetables are available including broccoli, cabbage, salad lettuce, potatoes, garlic, onions and carrots. Some organics foods are beginning to be processed into specialty foodstuffs such as cookies, peanut cookies and juice. Some of these goods might see market potential in Japan. Other goods must be sourced from the Korean mainland such as apples, rice and pears.
What's next? Bang hopes that the organic trend will continue to grow despite the recent economic downturns and even sees the resident foreign population in Jeju as a target market.
"The price of organic food in the USA can easily be 50 percent more than organic produce and in other areas such as Europe between 20 to 40 percent more expensive," Bang said.
The price of organic food here could be seen as reasonably priced compared to other countries. Other potential, and obvious, markets include hospitals, government and hotel markets. Bang hopes that in the future consumers see the benefits of shopping for locally produced goods, and also benefit from eating organic. This guy knows his stuff!
Bang employs 17 staff members and his wife plays an important supporting role in realizing his dream of living in Jeju. Although “Goods” does not act as a retailer, Bang was happy to divulge several stores that are open to the public; all from memory.
But you don’t have to eat in public school cafeterias to enjoy organic foods. Below are some main sellers of organic foods in Jeju. Happy shopping and to your good health! The names are literally translated.
3. Jalmeokko Jalsaneun-beob (how to eat well and live well)
4. Han Sallim (one household)
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