▲ A December 2009 photo of the first shipment of Jeju tangerines exported to England, Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
Within the last month several South Korean English newspapers covered the recent administrative agreement that was reached between Jeju and the Philippines that permits the island to export tangerines to the former Spanish colony. Though accurate that there was an agreement, these newspapers failed to elaborate upon its significance, which as of Aug. 13, 2010, is of very little. There are still several obstacles in the way before Jeju’s bright orange tangerines can be found among the yellows, greens and reds of Manilan produce sections.
The purpose of this agreement was to announce that “we are in talks with the Philippines,” said Yoon Chang Wan, director of the Citrus Policy Division for the Special Self-Governing Province. “It is not finalized yet.”
The agreement, as Yoon said, is akin to a “first draft,” which, over the next several months, will be looked over and amended by representatives from both parties.Yoon expects a finalized administrative agreement in November of this year, though he said “nothing is for sure.” The purpose of this agreement is to stipulate the specific guidelines Jeju farmers and packagers must adhere to for their product to be sold within the Philippines. Once the two parties come to an agreement it is up to the farmers and distributors to decide whether they wish to alter their practices to meet these guidelines. If not, Jeju tangerines will not be exported to the Philippines. “If they don’t want to export out of Korea [whether to the Philippines or elsewhere] they don’t have to,” Yoon said.
There is a finite amount of Jeju tangerines produced every year and through their exportation supply will be lessened and demand will raise prices in Korea. “When they take out 10,000 tons of tangerines overseas,” said Yoon, “Korea will have less and push up the cost.” Yoon assures that this is part of a bigger plan than to simply increase prices at home and that “it is more about expanding the global market,” and if “the demand increases world wide the price will go up eventually.”
According to Yoon a kilo of tangerines sold within Korea creates 1,000 won of revenue for the farmer and it is worth the same overseas, but by increasing a global demand the price could significantly increase.
Presently, the agreement consists of four conditions, primarily concerned with the quality and health of the fruit, which must be met for the exportation of tangerines to the Philippines. Yoon mentioned that the third clause, that requires Philippine quarantine officers to inspect Jeju farms and packaging facilities, is under contention. Since Korea has its own National Plant Quarantine Service, which all farms interested in exporting must be inspected by, having Philippine quarantine officers come to Jeju may be somewhat redundant. “We can inspect ourselves,” Yoon said.
Once these agreements are finalized they can still be altered by either party. Jeju has a similar arrangement with the United States, which was cast in August of 1995, but the island ceased to export tangerines to the U.S. in 2002 because “the U.S. wanted to make changes,” said Yoon.
To put this agreement with the Philippines into even more perspective the central government has yet to also agree to the terms.
The process is slow and Jeju seems to be in no rush to integrate its tangerines into foreign markets. “We are looking at the long term,” Yoon said, and it is more about creating these agreements than actually shipping the fruit, due to the fact that currently the price is the same internationally and domestically. The difference for a farmer to ship abroad than simply staying local is having to deal with foreign restrictions and added bureaucracy. Jeju is currently exporting tangerines to Canada, England, Russia and several countries in East Asia and are preparing to ship to the U.S. again. Considering that Jeju has had an agreement with the U.S. since 1995 and have not exported to them for the last seven years, there is much more to these deals than one might think. Simply because Jeju has an agreement with another country does not mean profit will be flying in and tangerines out. It only means that the two parties agree to these conditions; nothing more and nothing less.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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