(Yicai Global) Jan. 22 -- South Korea's trade imbalance in one commodity reached KRW50 billion (USD47 million) in an all-time high last year as the country imported 99 percent of its kimchi from China, state China Central Television reported on Jan. 20.
The deficit stood at KRW50 billion, up 11 percent per year, and the largest imbalance since data tracking started in 2000. The country imported 275,600 tons of Kimchi last year, and exported about 24,000 tons. The size of the deficit has now topped the 2016 high, trade statistics by Korea Customs Service (KCS) show.
Chinese kimchi wins on price. The affordable savory sauerkraut the country makes finds favor with South Koreans. Imports cost USD0.5 per kilogram in 2016, while exports averaged USD3.4 per kilogram, Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. said.
The export price of the relish has risen every year since 2007, while the import price has stayed the same. The Chinese product floods South Korean eateries, further stimulating imports, Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp said.
Citing 2014 as an example, South Korean exported USD16,440 of the peppery cabbage to China, while the latter exported USD104 million worth of the spicy side-dish, a difference of 6,340 times, Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp said.
China's strict sanitation standards on imported food pose difficulties to South Korea in exporting its kimchi. The rules classify it as pickled food in which only less than 10 E. coli may be present per sample. Satisfying this standard has proven problematic for South Korean processes.
The country's agriculture ministry gave Kimchi the Chinese name 'xingqi' to buff its appeal, but Chinese consumers did not take to the name, and most of its promotion plans have now derailed.
UNESCO has incorporated South Korean kimchi into its intangible cultural heritage list, along with other six global culinary cultural heritages. Kimchi is a fermented mix of cabbage, radish, scallions, ginger, garlic, salt, red pepper and fish sauce.