SEOUL, March 23 (Korea Bizwire) — Despite government efforts to persuade South Korean rice farmers to grow different crops, the majority have refused to budge due to the twin factors of the highest rice prices in three years and a natural disinclination to try their hand at growing other crops after a lifetime of rice farming.
Experts warn that the refusal to plant other crops will come back to bite them, as high rice prices may fall due to overproduction.
However, such urgings have been unable to change the minds of lifelong rice farmers like Kim from North Chungcheong Province.
“I can’t quit growing rice, not when prices are rising after a long time. I don’t think I would be able to handle planting something else either,” Kim said.
According to Statistics Korea, the price of rice (80kg) was 169,264 won as of March 15, 31.8 percent higher than last year. This year is the first time since 2015 that the price of rice has broken the 160,000 won barrier.
After continuing to spiral downwards without end, prices rebounded last July and have been increasing ever since.
Looking to avoid an oversupply of rice that would drag prices down, the government has been offering a sweetener of 3.4 million won per hectare to rice farmers to plant something different.
The government has targeted 50,000 hectares of former rice farmland for crop rotation, but so far only 24.8 percent have taken the government up on its offer.
In Kim’s home province, 27.3 percent of his fellow growers have planted different crops this year, a low percentage that is nonetheless far ahead of Gyeonggi Province’s 6.5 percent of farmers who have done likewise.
Unless at least 25,000 hectares of rice farmland are transitioned into growing other crops, industry watchers say the price of rice may tumble back down below 150,000 won.
In response to the lack of interest from rice farmers, the government has extended its offer of financial assistance from the end of this month to April 20.