This file photo shows the rice counter of a retail outlet in Seoul on Jan. 10, 2022. (Yonhap)
South Koreans' consumption of rice hit an all-time low in 2021, but the decreasing rate slowed on the back of a growing demand for home meals amid the COVID-19 pandemic, data showed Thursday.
The average South Korean consumed 56.9 kilograms of rice last year, down 1.4 percent or 0.8 kilograms from the previous year, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
Rice is a key staple food for Koreans, but its consumption has been on a steady decline since 1980 due mainly to changes in diet and eating habits.
The 2021 figure had more than halved compared with 30 years ago, when the amount stood at 116.3 kg. In 1980, per capita average annual rice consumption stood at 132.4 kg, the data showed.
But the rate of on-year decrease slowed last year from a 3.0 percent fall in 2019 and 2.5 percent in 2020, as demand for home meals has risen amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the growth in the number of single-person households, according to the agriculture ministry.
Many have opted or been forced to cook and eat at home rather than dining out due to the new coronavirus.
Shipments of ready-to-eat items, known as home meal replacement products in South Korea, came to 2.01 trillion won ($1.7 billion) in 2020, up 18.7 percent from the previous year. Compared with 2016, the figure marked a 145 percent rise, government data showed.
Rice consumption by food and beverage manufacturers also advanced 4.6 percent on-year in 2021 to 680,157 tons. Of them, those providing packed lunch used 16.2 percent more rice last year compared with a year earlier, the ministry said.
"We will continue efforts to promote good, rice-based eating habits while extending support for sales of rice products both at home and abroad," the ministry said in a release. (Yonhap)