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Aged Rice as Animal Feed

Posted July. 12, 2010 12:43,   


Korea has eliminated the annual spring starving period (before the spring barley harvest) thanks to the “Tongil (Unification)” rice breed that the Rural Development Administration developed and started to introduce in 1971. The breed produced as much as 40 percent more yield than ordinary ones. After the country secured rice independence, the Park Chung-hee administration revoked the semi-weekly “No Rice Day” and allowed the use of rice in the brewing of the traditional Korean rice wine “makgeolli” in 1974 for the first time in 14 years. Per capita rice consumption continued to increase every year through 1970 (136 kilograms) but has declined since reaching 130 kilograms in 1984. Fears are growing over a rice surplus, with per capita rice consumption falling to 74 kilograms last year.

After this year’s rice harvest around October, domestic rice inventory is expected to reach 1.4 million tons, nearly double the level deemed appropriate of 720,000 tons. Last year alone, the government spent more than 1.3 trillion won (1.1 billion U.S. dollars) to build up the public rice inventory and sustain rice prices. As much as 57 billion won (48 million dollars) went to storing rice the government purchased. If the government buys more rice this year, it will face a shortage of storage space for storing the grain. To promote rice consumption, brewers have been encouraged to use rice as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages and food makers and cooks have been spurred to develop diverse rice recipes. Rice consumption, however, has failed to noticeably recover.

Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Chang Tae-pyong announced Tuesday a plan to use 360,000 tons of aged rice per year. The government has been supplying rice for alcoholic beverages at 230 won (19 cents) per kilogram but can supply rice for animal feed for 250 (21 cents) to 270 won (23 cents). This measure can effectively reduce fiscal losses and cut the import of corn for animal feed. When Japan opened up its rice market in 1999, it changed regulations to allow the disposal of rice aged two years or more to produce processed foods and rice aged more than three years for animal feed. Japan developed a rice breed for animal feed and has been growing “rice pigs” since 2004 in preparation for a surge in animal feed. But can the Korean government’s plan to produce animal feed with aged rice overcome public opposition to the use of aged rice meant for humans as animal feed? Critics say Koreans could not afford to eat rice in the past but lament that the government is now trying to feed it to cows and pigs.

Poet Chang Jin-seong, a North Korean defector, wrote the poem “Our Boiled Rice.” The poem reads, “Our boiled rice. It is not boiled rice or white rice. It is wood. It is tree bark. Our rice… grows in the mountains.” It is tragic and deplorable that North Koreans rush to the mountains and fields to collect edible plant roots and tree bark in the “spring starvation period” every year. In South Korea, the main opposition Democratic Party has urged the government to cancel the plan to use aged rice for animal feed. Nonetheless, South Korea should not send rice to North Korea, which sank the South Korean naval boat Cheonan, as if nothing happened.

Editorial Writer Hong Kwon-hee (konihong@donga.com)