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Council Promotes Health Benefits Of U.S. Barley In South Korea

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) teamed up with Food Journal, one of the leading food magazines in South Korea, to promote the nutritional benefits and excellent quality of U.S. barley to the food industry and consumers during a November seminar in Seoul.

High beta-glucan barley has heart-healthy properties that may reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of heart disease and reduce glycemic index, according to U.S research. These nutritional properties make U.S. varieties of food barley attractive for Korean food producers.

“This program helped local importers and food manufacturers improve their understanding of the excellence of U.S. food barley,” said Haksoo Kim, USGC director in South Korea. “Although U.S. barley sales to South Korea remain a niche market, this seminar showed how the close relationship between U.S. barley producers and suppliers will help increase exports consistently.”

Speakers included both Korean and U.S. researchers who specialized in nutrition, crop science and market insights. Eighty-five food barley importers, food and snack manufacturers, barley millers, dieticians, nutritionists and related media attended the seminar, showing high interest in the U.S. barley market and barley’s associated health claims.

Seminar attendees showed particular interest in research by Dr. Corrie M. Whisner, assistant professor of nutrition in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University. Her research demonstrated the benefits of beta-glucans and polyphenols – both nutritional attributes of specific U.S. barley varieties – and how these compounds feed beneficial microorganisms in the human gut.

“Dr. Whisner’s research was well-received as a key message for expanding barley consumption in South Korea,” Kim said.

Three U.S. barley suppliers also participated in the seminar, conducting one-on-one buyer meetings during the conference and visiting a large confectionary company to explore the possibility of large volume exports.

The Council has promoted U.S. food barley since the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) went into effect in 2007. The trade agreement established duty-free access for a fixed volume of food barley and set a schedule for all tariffs on food barley to be eliminated by 2027.

Despite a zero-tariff advantage under a tariff rate quota (TRQ), imports of U.S. barley are limited because of a relatively small market size, domestic barley production, competition from a geographically closer neighbor, Australia, and increased demand for other “super” grains like millet, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and others.

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