S. Korea to reduce rice paddies to control supply

SEOUL, South Korea's agricultural ministry said Wednesday it plans to reduce the size of local rice paddies by 26,000 hectares this year to keep an optimal supply of rice while maintaining prices. The decision was based on the government's assessment that the ideal size of rice paddies for 2024 is estimated at 699,000 hectares, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Of the target, South Korea plans to induce local farms to cultivate other crops, such as beans and corn, on 15,100 hectares of land instead of rice. The government added it will increase subsidies for farms cultivating beans instead of rice, raising the support from 1 million won (US$753) per hectare in 2023 to 2 million won for this year. "By reducing the total size of rice paddies and encouraging farms to optimize production, we plan to stabilize prices and cut costs on the government's purchase of surplus rice," the ministry said. Although rice is a key staple food for Koreans, its consumption has been on a stea dy decline since 1980 due mainly to changes in diet and eating habits. The average South Korean consumed 56.4 kilograms of rice last year, down 0.6 percent, or 0.3 kg, from the previous year, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea. It is the lowest level since the government began compiling related data in 1962, and the 2023 figure is half the amount reported 30 years ago, when it was 122.1 kg. Source: Yonhap News Agency