South Korea will work to increase its exports of rice, the government said Tuesday, as a way of developing the local industry while also protecting the sector that's now facing a possible oversupply.
To help assist local producers and exporters, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has published an exporters handbook that outlines the names and other information of major buyers in key importing countries, including Australia and Japan.
The handbook also contains customs and other market information, such as labeling regulations, of key markets, according to the ministry.
The move comes as the country continues to face a possible oversupply of rice as its own output gained 0.3 percent on-year to about 4.23 million tons last year while its per capita consumption of the staple crop continues to drop.
In 2014, the country's annual intake of rice per person slipped 3.1 percent on-year to a record low of 65.1 kilograms. The figure marks a 52 percent plunge from the record high of 136.4 kg posted in 1970.
South Korea has also liberalized its rice market with tarrification at the beginning of the year, though imports under tarrification are currently subject to a tariff of 513 percent.
The 513 percent tariff rate still requires verification by the World Trade Organization while the country is required to import 408,700 tons of rice each year under a special arrangement with the WTO known as the minimum market access.
All 408,700 tons of imports under MMA are only subject to a tariff rate of 5 percent, keeping their prices significantly lower than those of locally produced crops.
"Locally produced rice may appear to have little competitiveness in terms of price, especially in the global market, but its quality finds little competition anywhere in the world," said Kang Hye-young, head of the ministry's export promotion division.
In 2014, South Korea exported 1,992 tons of rice, worth $4.72 million, to 45 countries throughout the world. The amount marks a 13.6 percent on-year spike from 1,754 tons in 2013.
The country also shipped about $59.5 million worth of rice products, such as rice cake, last year, up 14 percent from a year earlier, according to the ministry. (Yonhap)