South Korea will join an international treaty to provide rice in economic assistance to poor countries as rice prices continued to drop due to dwindling consumption, oversupply, rising stockpiles and bumper crops.
The agriculture ministry said cabinet members endorsed South Korea's participation in the Food Assistance Convention which entered into force in January 2013. So far 14 countries including the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia and the European Union have joined the treaty.
South Korea plans to donate some 40 million dollars worth of rice, or 50,000 tons, to the treaty, the ministry said.
State warehouses are packed with rice reserves, far higher than 800,000 tons recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization. South Korea should also import about 400,000 tons under the obligatory rice quota set by the World Trade Organization.
Rice is still the main source of daily calories, but annual rice consumption has been on the decline, leading to a surge in the rice inventory. South Koreans now consume more coffee than their staple food. Alternative and processed food are getting more popular while the perception that too much carbohydrate is unhealthy also played a role in the dietary trend.
The government has provided subsidies to farms and purchased oversupplied rice. This year alone, nearly 1.5 trillion won ($1.35 billion) in subsidies will be paid to rice farmers as compensation for falling prices.
Lim Chang-won = firstname.lastname@example.org