Kimchi sales set to sour as veggie prices spike

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Kimchi sales set to sour as veggie prices spike

Koreans love to have yeolmukimchi, a type of kimchi made of young radish and seasoned with ground red pepper, with cold noodles to combat the hot weather in summer. Sales of yeolmukimchi, however, are expected to suffer this year due to price hikes of radishes and dried red peppers.

According to Seoul Agricultural & Marine Products, the wholesale price of young radishes stood at 1,689 won ($1.4) per 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) at Garak Market yesterday, showing a 117 percent jump from this time last year. The price has surged in part because farmers chose to plant more spinach instead. According to the city’s agricultural corporation, the price of one affects the other because the two crops are released on the market at similar times. “As the price of spinach skyrocketed last year, farmers chose it over small radishes and is now affecting this year’s prices,” said Lee Jong-cheol, a manager at Lotte Mart.

Meanwhile, dried peppers are selling wholesale for 14,000 won per 600 grams, up 65 percent from 8,500 won, the body said. Production dropped over 30 percent in the wake of torrential rains last summer.

“Their price is expected to rise for a while because different farming areas are seeing production shortfalls of 5 to 30 percent from last year,” Lee said. The spike in pepper prices is mostly attributable to heavy rains in Andong and Yeognju in North Gyeongsang.

Considering the wide fluctuations in prices of major crops like cabbages, radishes and peppers, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance aims to increase its support and ramp up subsidies for select crops as part of its efforts to keep a lid on rising consumer prices.

“The Agriculture Ministry plans to provide support for raising up to 30 percent of the country’s total production of those crops by 2013 in a bid to guarantee stable sources of income for farmers and tame inflation,” said Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan at an anti-inflation meeting on May 11.

Retailers also intend to help push down prices. Lotte Mart will sell ground red pepper at 48,000 won per 1.8 kilograms on a pre-order basis until May 30, 40 percent below the current market price.

By Shim Seo-hyun, Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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