[EDITORIALS]Help farmers help themselves

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[EDITORIALS]Help farmers help themselves

The opinion of farmers on the opening of the agricultural market has seemingly become more positive. A majority of farmers have accepted the reality that the opening of the market is inevitable, and they have shown a strong will to be more active in coping with what happens after the opening.
According to a poll conducted late last year by the Korea Rural Economic Institute of 2,000 farmers, 81.9 percent of them said it would be almost impossible to block the opening of the agricultural market. That means almost every farmer regards the market’s opening as inevitable.
The change in farmers’ perceptions is encouraging because such a realistic understanding is the starting point of the agricultural industry’s recovery in the current globalized era. It is a completely different picture from that of the past when farmers blindly opposed the market’s opening.
Also, 55.5 percent of the respondents said that although they can’t stop the opening of the markets, they can adjust the scope of the opening. This indicates that farmers are becoming more flexible and are approaching the issue more realistically and practically.
Also, 74.8 percent of the respondents said that they would actively prepare for the opening. Some said they would raise their own competitiveness by increasing quality and lowering prices, while some said they will pursue other income sources outside farming. The figures prove farmers are groping for practical means with which they can cope with the reality after deciding to accept market opening.
Even though the government has poured an astronomical 70 trillion won ($69 billion) into the agricultural industry since the Uruguay Round, the competitiveness of Korean agriculture products has not improved. This is because agricultural policies are ineffective and based on a belief that the market will continue to remain closed.
Late last year, the government pledged to spend 119 trillion won on the agricultural industry for the next 10 years as a measure to cope with the opening of the rice market.
But in order to make sure that the money is used in increasing the competitiveness of agricultural industry and improve the living standards of farmers, the efforts of farmers are needed. When we are able to look at the reality that faces the agricultural industry and the one that farmers will face after the opening, we can create new, realistic policies.
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