S. Korea's food exports hit record high in Q1

SEJONG, April 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports of food and agricultural products reached a fresh record high in the first three months of the year on rising demand in the United States and China, government data showed Wednesday.

Outbound shipments of foodstuffs and farm products rose 11.3 percent on-year to US$1.64 billion in the January-March period according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

It marked the largest exports tallied in the first quarter since the government started compiling such data in 1970.

The ministry said a steady rise in exports to big markets fueled the rally.

Japan, the biggest buyer of South Korean food, imported $309.4 million in the three-month period, up 17.2 percent from a year earlier, while $172.8 million worth of Korean agricultural goods were shipped to the U.S., up 4.3 percent from a year ago.

Exports to China gained 7.4 percent on-year to $242.9 million over the January-March period despite the Beijing government's move to raise non-tariff barriers against South Korean products in apparent retaliation for Seoul's plan to deploy the U.S.-led missile defense system.

However, in March alone, shipments to China fell 5.7 percent on-year due mainly to hostile actions taken by Beijing, the ministry said.

Exports of fresh fruit and vegetables, including strawberry, paprika and pears, climbed 4.7 percent on-year to $255 million in the first quarter, while overseas sales of processed food, such as instant noodles, snacks and alcoholic beverages, jumped 12.6 percent to $1.39 billion.