[EDITORIALS]Farmers must learn to competeNegotiations on opening Korea’s rice market seem to take the direction of expanding imports two-fold in 10 years. In order to reduce the political burden of opening the rice market completely, the government has decided to suspend the imposition of a duty on rice imports, and instead it has chosen to increase the volume of mandatory imports.
By not completely opening the market, the political burden is reduced, but this doesn’t eliminate some side effects. Korea’s rice market is on the threshold of entering open competition. Consumers can buy imported rice from discount stores as they please starting next year. So far, imported rice has been used for processed foods, but now it can reach the dinner table of ordinary consumers. If Korean rice loses competitiveness, the chances are high that it will lose market share to American rice and low-priced Chinese rice.
With the decrease in rice consumption, the stock of domestic rice is increasing. In addition, if we import an additional 20,000 tons annually, on top of the 200,5000 tons imported this year, it will be a headache to liquidate the rice stock. Due to an abrupt change in the international situation, if the government judges that suspending rice tariffs is meaningless, Korea will impose a duty on rice imports. It means a complete opening of the market.
Farmers’ organizations reacted strongly against the decision. But Japan has completely opened its rice market. Korea can’t be the only one left out. To reduce the shock, the government has decided to compensate 80 percent of the loss if rice price goes below 170,000 won ($160) per 80 kg. Farmers have to become competitive in a hurry.
The government has decided to pour 119 trillion won into the agricultural sector in the coming 10 years. After the Uruguay negotiations on agricultural products were concluded, the government poured in 70 trillion won into farming in the past 10 years, but the competitiveness of agriculture had regressed and farmers’ debts only increased. Both the government and farmers shouldn’t take the same reckless course. The government needs a clear vision and detailed strategy. And politicians shouldn’t use farmers for political purposes anymore.
There is no future for Korea’s agriculture without the reflection and the determination of farmers that they will share the burden and help themselves to increase their own competitiveness against foreign rice.