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Vietnam proves lucrative market for Korean ginseng

Vietnam has emerged as the biggest buyer of South Korean ginseng in Southeast Asia, the Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday, quoting a Vietnam-based trade group.

Vietnam imported 1,362 tons of ginseng worth $9.46 million from South Korea in 2015, becoming the largest consumer among Southeast Asian countries and sixth globally, data from the Ho Chi Minh office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) showed.

The Southeast Asian nation was also the only country to see a year-on-year increase in both the quantity and value of ginseng shipments from South Korea last year.

South Korea’s ginseng exports to Vietnam in 2015 jumped 93 percent in quantity and 32 percent in value compared with 2010.

According to a separate market survey conducted in September, 85 percent of Vietnamese consumers had bought Korean agricultural products at one time and 29 percent of them had purchased ginseng, much higher than the 18 percent who had bought popular Korean side dish kimchi, said Yonhap.

"Korean ginseng is high quality and relatively expensive, so it makes for good gifts," KOTRA was quoted as saying.

South Korean ginseng, however, is facing fierce competition from cheap Chinese products, KOTRA said, adding that some of the Chinese products are falsely labeled as Korean brands.

In addition, Vietnam is planning to develop its own ginseng to reduce dependence on imports, which is likely to hurt South Korea’s exports, the trade group said.

Last year, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam approved a scheme to preserve and develop the local ginseng of Ngoc Linh in the central province of Quang Nam.