Korea was ranked 32nd place for the World Food Security Index announced every year by the Economist, the lowest among OECD countries. This contrasts with Japan, which ranks around 10th place every year, while Korea's place continues to fall, from 24th place in 2017 to 29th place in 2019. Korea's ranking was low due to absence of strategy of stocking adequate food in food crisis situations such as population growth, disaster, war, and the absence of a government agency to look after food security.
"Leading countries such as the U.S., China, Japan and European countries have long term plans to cope with food crisis following climate change, while the food security agenda itself is not familiar yet in Korea," said Nam Jae-jak, the head of the Korea Precision Agriculture Institute, author of the book "Korea Facing Food Crisis,” published on June 20.
Korea's self-sufficiency rate for wheat stands at a mere 0.7 percent and relies on imports from the U.S., Australia, Ukraine to supply annual wheat consumption of 3.5 million tons. Severe draughts that have continued since last year in the U.S., however, have impacted the U.S. grain crop production by 40 percent. Coupled with the war in the Ukraine, food prices have significantly increased. Australia suffers from bad harvest every three to five years. "Food prices can be inevitably impacted anytime if draught, wild fires, wars and other global crisis happen," said Nam.
The solution is to increase food self-sufficiency rate but not easy to do so realistically. Farmland in Korea disappears at 1-2 percent every year, which Nam attributes to decline in agricultural industry. "As of 2020, 70% of agricultural households earn annual income of less than 10 million won. It is not even easy to sustain the current self-sufficiency rate we have now, given the decline in farmland and agricultural workforce," said Nam. He advised the need to build strategies to respond to food crisis by diversifying global grain supply. He said that Korea needs to build systems to predict food production of key agricultural producers for the next 5 to 10 years and sign pre-purchase contracts.
"The real crisis comes when we do not have any idea of food production and stock data at other countries," Nam warned. Countries around the world are busy building food security systems looking 100 years ahead. NASA of the U.S. uses satellites to estimate food crop production areas to analyze crop production. China has used national chemical company ChemChina to acquire Swiss multinational agricultural company Syngenta at 43 billion dollars. Korea will be launching a mid-sized satellite for agricultural use in 2025. "We need to place food security as a national agenda before it's too late," stressed Nam.