[EDITORIALS]Money alone won’t aid farmersTalks on opening Korea’s rice market are in the final stage. The government intends to make concessions on the current quota for minimum market access (MMA), instead of opening its doors completely. But negotiations are hitting a snag because the increase in the MMA quota demanded by major exporters like the United States and China is too high for Korea.
Some say that we should adopt the tariff system and open the market instead of accepting an excessive demand for a quota increase. Under the guidelines set by the Uruguay Round, Korea must decide by the end of this year whether to adopt the tariff system or to increase the import quota.
Among the WTO member countries, Korea and the Philippines are the only ones whose rice markets are closed to outside countries. It’s not possible to avoid opening the market any longer.
The government shouldn’t automatically resort to increasing the quota, which is more popular politically. Instead, it must negotiate with more flexibility, taking national interests into account.
The previous governments considered national sentiment before thinking about what was in the best interest for the nation. As a result, we paid a far more expensive price.
In addition, it must prepare for expected changes. Farmers’ organizations stage protests, but the government doesn’t make any effort to dissuade them. The government must inform people of the reality we face and explain to them what is the course we must take for the nation’s good and for the future of the farming sector. It must strengthen its effort to create a social consensus.
It must also take comprehensive approach to agricultural problems and measures to help farmers. The government is pointing to the 119 trillion won ($ 103.7 billion) it has earmarked for the agricultural sector in the coming 10 years, but the problem can’t be solved by money alone. Seoul spent 69 trillion won on agriculture in the past 10 years, but the farm sector remains devastated.
Without the cooperation of farmers and farmers’ organizations and a comprehensive plan to enhance the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, it is highly likely that we will again waste our money. Farmers’ organizations must refrain from staging unconditional protests or radical struggles; instead, they must cooperate in finding a way for us all to live.