Last week saw the first containers of French kiwifruit set off for the South Korean market, the result of several years of negotiations.
Two French companies, Blue Whale and Prim'land, announced the loading of their first containers destined for this highly attractive market.
"It is a trial shipment due to arrive for Christmas time," said Blue Whale's export manager, Marc Peyres. "Entering a new market with strict protocols is always an adventure. We hope that our Korean customers enjoy our French kiwifruit as much as our customers in Southeast Asia."
Prim'land's managing director, Jean-Baptiste Pinel, said that the first 20 tonnes of its Oscar-branded kiwifruit was expected in Seoul around 25 December.
François Lafitte, Prim'land's president and the first person to initiate the process, commented: "Eight years of relentless effort have been necessary to obtain the authorisations from the French and Korean quarantine departments, but it's been worth it."
For the 2013/14 season, Prim'land is expecting to sell 17,000 tonnes of kiwifruit, with more than 35 per cent heading to East Asia, a key growth market for Oscar kiwifruit.
Blue Whale's Peyres conceded that it would be a long-term challenge to gain the same recognition in South Korea as its premium kiwifruit had in Southeast Asia and Europe.
"The high duties, the long transit time, the high competition from other countries - these factors make it a difficult challenge, but we are now ready to do it," he said. "The objective now is to load again in January or February."