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Size of Rice Bowls Shrinking due to Waning Demand

Posted July. 03, 2009 05:20,   


A few days ago, a woman visited her son and daughter-in-law. When her daughter-in-law filled only half of a bowl of rice, the woman said, “If you want to live a happy life, you have to fill the bowl.”

Her daughter-in-law said, however, “Most people nowadays are eating less rice.”

The rise in household incomes has led to changing eating habits. Increasingly, more people want to lose weight so the amount of rice consumption per capita has decreased. Accordingly, the average rice bowl has gotten smaller.

○ The shrinking rice bowl

According to the think tanke of Haengnam Chinaware, the capacity of a rice bowl was 530 cubic centimeters in the 1940s and 50s, when Koreans believed a bowl of rice was no less than expensive medicine. After Western-style eating habits were introduced, however, the capacity of a rice bowl decreased to 500 cubic centimeters in the 1960s and 450 cubic centimeters in the 1970s and 80s.

As fast food chains mushroomed in the wake of the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, rice demand in Korea further decreased. The average volume of rice a Korean ate per year decreased from 132.4 kilograms in the 1980s to 93.6 kilograms in 1990. The amount has since decreased further.

Accordingly, major Korean bowl makers such as Haengnam and Hankook Chinaware have reduced the size of rice bowls to 350 cubic centimeters.

The size of stainless steel rice bowls used mostly by restaurants has also decreased. In the past, most eateries used large bowls without lids but now use flat bowls with lids.

A bowl wholesaler in Seoul’s Namdaemun Market said, “Flat bowls are better than large bowls in retaining heat, but restaurants use flat bowls because customers eat less, not because of better functions.”

○ Decreasing rice demand

The National Statistical Office said the amount of rice consumed by a Korean fell 1.3 kilograms from 2007 to 75.6 kilograms last year, a decline of 14.5 percent (13.1 kilograms) from 88.7 kilograms in 2001. That means a Korean last year ate 1.7 to two bowls of rice every day.

The fall in rice demand has also put downward pressure on rice prices. The Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp. said the wholesale price of a 20-kilogram bag of rice was 39,000 won (30.7 U.S. dollars) Wednesday, down 5.6 percent or 2,300 won (1.80 dollars) from the previous year.

The retail price also fell 2.6 percent, or 1,196 won (0.94 dollar), last month to 44,596 won (35.1 dollars).