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Korea to expand food supply to tame prices ahead of Chuseok

President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) talks with a citizen during his visit to a large discount chain in Seoul on Thursday to map out policies to tame inflation. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) talks with a citizen during his visit to a large discount chain in Seoul on Thursday to map out policies to tame inflation. (Yonhap)
SEJONG -- Economic policymakers said Thursday that they would seek to stabilize consumer prices ahead of the Chuseok holiday by greatly expanding supply and issuing discount coupons for agricultural, livestock and fishery products.

They also decided to provide support funds worth 42.6 trillion won ($32.6 billion) for small- and mid-sized enterprises and small merchants before the Chuseok holiday period, Sept. 9-12.

The measures were confirmed during a meeting presided over by President Yoon Suk-yeol at a discount chain in Seoul.

Yoon said the government should curb prices to a level that could relieve people from economic difficulties, calling for relevant ministries to supply products at the largest scale in history and to prevent price volatility amid the big damages from heavy rainfalls.

According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, retail prices of 20 high-demand seasonal items for the nation’s traditional holidays climbed by 7.1 percent as of July, compared to last year’s Chuseok holiday season.

The government has set the goal of pulling down the prices of the 20 items, such as apples and pork, to approach the levels a year earlier, said the ministry.

First, the government will increase the supply of the 20 major items to 230,000 tons collectively during the coming period between Aug. 18 and Sept. 8, which is up 40 percent compared to ordinary days.

By segment, the supply of seven agricultural items, including cabbages, apples and pears, will be raised by 130 percent.

The supply of four livestock and six fisheries items will be increased by 30 percent, respectively. Among them are beef, pork, chickens, eggs, squid and mackerel.

In addition, the government plans to sharply increase the supply of three forest items -- chestnuts, jujubes and pine nuts -- by 210 percent.

Policymakers will then issue discount vouchers for consumers in coordination with large discount chains and NH Nonghyup.

Via the coupons, consumers are projected to purchase 20 of the most important items at discounted prices by 20-50 percent, said the ministry.

Officials expect that consumers will be able to purchase agricultural products discounted by 30-40 percent, livestock products by 20-30 percent and fishery products by up to 50 percent.

Finally, a task force comprised of inspectors from relevant ministries will closely look into wholesale and retail prices of the 20 major items every day over the next few weeks.

As the measure for businesses, state-run banks and some others will offer support funds worth 42.6 trillion won to small merchants and SMEs, an increase of 1.9 trillion won compared to the previous year.

Of the funds, loans with relatively low-interest rates will make up 38.1 trillion won, which will be issued by the Korea Development Bank, the Bank of Korea, some commercial banks and others.

The government also said it was considering offering exemption of tolls at expressways for drivers during the coming Chuseok holiday.

But the policy will be delayed, amid the rise in the number of COVID-19 infections, as exemption of tolls will increase the movement of people.

Similarly, as part of policymakers’ effort to improve people’s living conditions, the Financial Services Commission said Thursday that it was moving to launch a fund in September to help about 250,000 people hit hard by the pandemic write off their debt.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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