A beef about pricesAccording to research conducted by a Korean organization of consumers, Koreans eat the most expensive beef in the world. The survey was conducted together with consumers’ associations from 29 other countries.
Unfortunately, that does not mean Korean beef is the best in the world. It simply means that beef sold on the domestic market is the most overpriced in the world.
In particular, the price of Korean beef is almost 4.6 times higher than that of imported beef in domestic markets. Even middle-class people now have to think twice before buying beef.
The insufficient supply of beef flowing into the market is the main reason for the absurd prices. For ordinary products, if domestic production or imports are increased, prices fall, but that cannot happen in the beef market.
The problem is that if beef prices drop even slightly from the current level, domestic cattle farms cannot make any profit from their businesses. Even though beef imports are allowed there are limits on imported beef for a variety of reasons. When a tariff is added on top, the end price that consumers are required to pay goes up.
Lately, importing beef from the United States has been stopped because bone chips were found in shipments. This eased competition in the market and eliminated an opportunity to lower domestic beef prices.
Consumers are the ones who suffer because Korean beef is the most expensive in the world. They have to choose between paying a lot to eat beef or reducing their consumption of beef. Either way, it is consumers who are made miserable.
On matters regarding farm and fishery products in the domestic market, the opinions of consumers have been overlooked or ignored. Only the interests of farmers and fishermen have been emphasized. The same thing happened in the course of a long debate about rice imports and negotiations on a free trade agreement with the Untied States.
But now the time has come to look carefully into the prices of farm and fishery products, while considering consumers as well as farmers and fishermen.
We should stop making consumers, who form a majority in society, sacrifice themselves in order to protect farmers and fishermen. This cannot be in the national interest.
If the government truly wants to protect farmers and fishermen it should look for methods that make it easier for them to endure competition. It must be possible to have cheap beef and profitable farms.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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