Gov’t to purchase 350,000 tons of rice for reserve

SEOUL-- South Korea will increase the purchase of local rice that will be set aside for reserve purposes this year to help stabilize prices on the domestic market, the agriculture ministry said Thursday.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said it will buy 350,000 tons of rice harvested this year from Sept. 25 to Dec. 31.

It will increase the purchase of rice from last year's 82,000 tons to 90,000 tons and buy 260,000 tons of packaged rice.

Some 10,000 tons of rice will be set aside for ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) as Seoul plans to send rice aid to developing nations, the ministry said.

Launched in 2013 by 10 countries of the ASEAN and the three Northeast Asian countries of South Korea, Japan and China, APTERR is aimed at safeguarding the region's food security in case of emergencies, such as floods and droughts.

The APTERR participation is also part of the Seoul government's schemes to deal with a chronic oversupply of rice in the country stemming from a sharp drop in rice consumption.

Some 300,000 tons of rice remained in excess last year, as the 4.2 million-ton supply outnumbers the 3.9 million tons consumed, and the glut will likely stay at 200,000 tons in 2017.

This year, the ministry plans to temporarily abolish upfront payment, which was given to farmers in August before each year's rice price was confirmed in September or October.

Under the system introduced in 2005, the government paid extra money to farmers in addition to the prepayment to complement the rice price later. But last year farmers had to return part of the money they received in advance after the government failed to properly predict rice prices, causing complaints.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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