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Low Rice Prices Frustrate Farmers

Posted November. 05, 2005 03:02,   


“Pleading with friends and relatives to buy rice has become an important routine. Frustrated, I even posted an offer on the Internet,” said Kim Jin-wook (29), a farmer in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

Although a farmer, he became a merchant after harvesting. He asks anyone he can get in touch with to buy his rice. He even registered with an online shopping mall to sell his rice over the Internet.

He produced 150 sacks of rice, each weighing 80kg, this year. He is reluctant to sell because the purchase price offered by Nonghyup and the price for Public Rice Reserve System has been 130,000 won, short of the 160,000 price level last year.

“If selling online is not lucrative, I intend to sell my rice myself by visiting nearby restaurants,” he said.

In an effort to earn even a little bit more, more farmers are willing to sell rice directly after the official rice purchasing system was abolished this year.

The government is buying as much rice as last year (five million bags) by introducing the Public Rice Reserve System in place of the previous one, but the current problem is price. The price of rice fell from 160,000 won for an 80kg bag of rice to 136,000 earlier this month.

With more farmers willing to sell rice over the Internet, there are more offers on websites.

There were 350 offers as of Tuesday on Auction, an online shopping mall, more than double compared with same period last year. The website is full of people who claim that they are selling rice their parents and siblings produced.

“My son posted an offer on the Internet. I must harvest beans and prepare to grow garlic for next year, but I cannot do anything right now because my head is filled with thoughts of how to sell rice,” said Choi Yeon-yong (60) from Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

Despite the government’s efforts, farmers are not faring well because large retail stores are selling rice at a lower price. Farmers are selling 20kg of rice for 38,000-42,000 won online whereas the price is lower at retail stores.

Therefore The Korean Peasants League, comprising farmers across the nation, is calling for a halt to selling rice at low prices, saying, “Large retailers are bringing down prices.”

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry also met with large retailers recently and requested them to refrain from holding rice discount events.

People even give rice for presents instead of flowers or money to boost sales of rice.

Comedian Lee Seung-whan will receive rice instead of flowers for his wedding on the 14th and donate it to those in need. Nonghyup of North Jeolla Province is pushing for a campaign to give rice to the newlyweds instead of money.

Jin-Suk Huh jameshuh@donga.com