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Soaring Basket Prices of Chuseok-related Products

Posted September. 13, 2004 22:01,   


How much more expensive?

The price of mackerels (product) traded at the Garak-dong Agricultural & Marine Products Wholesale Market in Seoul surged year-on-year 42 percent from 36,000 won per 10kg to 51,000 won. Cutlass fish (product) is being traded at 64,500 won per 3kg, which is a year-on-year 79 percent increase.

“Fish used in ancestor memorial rites during Chuseok (the Korean version of Thanksgiving) such as sea bream and yellow corbina are 20 percent more expensive than the previous year,” said Park Jang-dae, a Food team buyer at discount store E-mart. He added, “Prices of fish for daily consumption like mackerel have risen by 20-30 percent compared with the same period last year.”

On September 10 at the Garak Wholesale Market, Chinese cabbages were traded at 4.15 million won per 5-ton truck, skyrocketing 90 percent from last year’s 2.18 million won. The price of radish was 5.64 million won per 5-ton truck, which is 2.5 times higher than the previous year.

Why so expensive?

“Anbanduk” in Gangwon Province is a highland area 1,200 meters above the sea-level where Chinese cabbages are cultivated. The temperature was so low at the endless steep field on September 10 that it was freezing even when wearing a thick coat and gloves.

Unfortunately, things were different in summer this year. The optimal temperature for the cabbages is normally 18C. However, the harvest of Gangwon cabbage, which accounts for 80 percent of all cabbages consumed, was poor this year due to heat waves, leading to the surge in price.

“I have never seen such a disastrous damage on vegetable caused by scorching weather since 1994 when I started working in Gangwon Province,” said Lee Jeong-tae, a researcher of National Institute of Highland Agriculture under the Rural Development Administration.

It is 5:30 a.m. on September 10. Mackerels and squids caught inshore were beginning to be unloaded at the Busan Cooperative Fish Market, the biggest fish market in Korea. Although the auctions started at 6 a.m., Kim Il-woong, who has spent 12 years as a broker and wholesaler, said the market does not bustle as it used to.

Fish sent out to the big cities such as Seoul decreased since July as a result of the decline in the amount of fish traded at the market. Kim pointed out, “Fish catch dropped 20 percent this year compared with the previous year.”

Cho Won-sik, who catches fish in the coastal area, said, “For nine days a month, I was unable to go out to the sea to catch croakers, cutlass fish, and squids because of the typhoons that often hit Korea.”