South Korea's agriculture minister said Wednesday that the government will increase supplies of key fruits and vegetables from its storage to stabilize market prices ahead of the Chuseok holiday.
Lee Gae-ho, the new minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, expressed concerns over a sharp price hike in major crops, affected by weeks of hot and dry weather, and the ensuing typhoon that brought heavy rain and strong wind.
"We will expand farmers' markets and release 1.5 times the normal supplies of major foods, including apples, pears, vegetables, cabbages and meat, from the stockpile ahead of Chuseok," Lee said in an interview with Yonhap News at the agriculture ministry's Seoul office. "We will prevent an excessive price surge and closely monitor the market to maintain a relevant price range."
While stabilizing the food market is a major role for the ministry, Lee said the government will also seek ways to guarantee a stable level of income for small-scale farmers by upgrading the target price for rice.
"The target price of rice was set five years ago, and it should be raised to reflect at least more than the inflation rate," Lee said, noting the rice prices should be over 194,000 won ($173.30) per 80 kilograms.
In South Korea, the government annually purchases homegrown rice to stabilize the domestic market that's grappling with oversupply and provides subsidies for rice farmers for their welfare.
The chronic oversupply of rice comes as a growing number of South Koreans have been reducing their rice intake and diversifying their diets with alternatives like wheat, barley, beans and corn. (Yonhap)