EDASC Explores Opportunities for Skagit County in Japan and Korea

Friday, December 01, 2017

Main News Photo
  • Japan and South Korea have been identified as promising export markets for Skagit County value-added agriculture products.
  • EDASC visited these markets to explore opportunities and introduce Skagit County and northwest Washington to key counterparts in both countries.
  • Organic agriculture and craft brewing present positive opportunities in these markets for Skagit County products; agriculture technology and agritourism also present potential areas for information sharing and engagement.

Sean at Jeonju Hanok VillageAs part of its activities to promote Skagit County’s economy, EDASC actively explores opportunities to build global connections through export promotion, investment attraction, and mutually beneficial partnerships.  With value-added agriculture an important and growing economic sector for Skagit County, EDASC is on the lookout for new markets for Skagit-grown and produced products, and for the exceptional education and research and development programs at Skagit Valley College and Washington State University.

Over the past year, EDASC has identified South Korea and Japan as two markets with strong potential for Skagit County value-added agriculture products and resources.  Japan was Washington State’s second-largest export market in 2016 and Korea its fifth-largest, and both are also leading export markets for Washington State agricultural products.  Several sectors in which Skagit County producers excel—including organic agriculture and craft beer, among others—are finding increasing demand among consumers in both countries.  Some local farms are already successfully exporting to these markets, while Japanese companies such as Sakata Seed have established local operations.

Korean supermarketEDASC Director of Business Recruitment Sean Connell visited Korea and Japan in November to further explore these opportunities, and to conduct introductory meetings and discussions for a potential business mission from Skagit County and northwest Washington to these countries during 2018.  Goals of his visit included introducing the region; learning more about local market trends and consumer demand that would match well with locally-produced value-added agriculture products, practices, and educational programs; learning about innovative programs and practices in Korea and Japan that could inform local farmers and producers; and initiate conversations about a potential 2018 mission.

In both countries, Sean met with the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s representatives, and with the U.S. Embassies in Seoul and Tokyo, to discuss these topics and potential strategic approaches, such as industry trade shows, to promote Skagit County and northwest Washington products.  Meetings in Korea focused on organic agriculture, including discussions with the Korean Organic Farming Association and a visit to ORGA Whole Foods, one of Korea’s leading organic foods retailers.  In Japan, Sean met with a broad range of government and business stakeholders to discuss trends and opportunities in Japan’s market, including in the growing craft brew sector as well as related to agriculture technologies.    

Sean with the Dept. of Agriculture Representative and local South Korean leadersAdditionally, Sean explored potential connections at the state and regional levels.  In Korea he conducted meetings with local officials and universities in Jeollabuk Province, Washington’s sister state in Korea.  Jeollabuk is Korea’s leading agricultural area, home to many national research institutions, and its capital of Jeonju an internationally-recognized foodie hub.  In Japan, he met with officials from the Aichi Prefecture Government, with which Washington State signed a memorandum of cooperation on economic relations last year, for similar discussions about local agriculture initiatives and R&D, and to introduce Skagit County assets.

Key takeaways from these meetings included an increased understanding of potential opportunities for Skagit and northwest Washington farmers, producers, and educational institutions in both markets.  They also included insights into organizations and communities with shared priorities and values, and considerations for the timing and composition of a business mission.  Based on these meetings, EDASC will consult with Skagit County and other regional partners to consider the potential timing and focus areas of a possible business mission.  For more information, contact Andrew Miller, EDASC Director of Business Retention and Expansion, at andrew@skagit.org; and Sean Connell at sean@skagit.org.

Category: exports, Trade, international trade, International, Value-Added Agriculture