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Cabbage prices fuel kimchi imports

Imports of Korean staple rise by almost 40% on-year

As prices of locally-produced napa cabbages soared, kimchi exports decreased by more than 10 percent this year, while imports increased by nearly 40 percent, government data found Monday.

This year’s outbound shipment of kimchi amounted to 15,614 tons as of July, a 10.7 percent decline compared to the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Korea Customs Service. 

However, kimchi imports saw a huge 38.6 percent increase to 134,162 tons from 96,826 tons during the same period in 2010, the data said.

Kimchi’s trade balance, which posted a surplus of $5.62 million last July, also swung back to a deficit of $13.05 million as of July this year.

The amount of kimchi exports was $58.07 million this year, up 3.7 percent from $56 million last year. But that of imports sharply increased by 41.2 percent from $53.75 million won to $71.13 million won.

“With cabbage prices soaring here early this year, kimchi exports sharply decreased. Also, a short supply of domestic kimchi prompted more imports of cheaper Chinese kimchi,” a ministry official said.

Adding to the growing price concerns over kimchi here, Korea Rural Economic Institute predicted that given the current soaring cabbage prices following prolonged rainy season and heavy rainfalls, kimchi imports in August would further increase by 8 percent to 15,000 tons compared with the same period last year.

By Lee Ji-yoon (