Government cultivates creativity on the farm

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Government cultivates creativity on the farm

President Park Geun-hye’s creative economy initiative will be applied to the agricultural industry, too, with a goal of making it a new type of industry combined with manufacturing, processing and tourism.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced yesterday a plan to foster the agricultural sector, once considered a primary industry, as a new growth engine for the economy.

An existing example of the new industry concept is a ranch in Yeoju, Gyeonggi, producing both dairy and tourism products.

The ranch, run by a four-member family, raises dairy cattle and makes processed cheese. The family has developed a program that gives tourists a chance to experience raising cattle and producing dairy products. Last year, about 11,300 tourists, including 6,300 foreigners, visited the ranch.

By 2017, the government plans to foster as many as 1,000 such businesses with sales reaching 10 billion won. There are about 300 businesses already in operation.

More specifically, the government aims to ramp up annual growth of farm income to 7.5 percent from 4.6 percent.

The government also will allow individual farms to provide accommodation and breakfast services, which is currently banned, and they will be exempt from sanitation qualifications.

A main part of the plan is to create 5,000 jobs annually for women and the elderly. To achieve that goal, the Ministry of Agriculture will set up technology centers in rural areas where residents can brainstorm ideas and build and test products.

There are 16 processing centers for agricultural products across the nation, but the government plans to gradually increase the number and hire retired food experts as technology and management advisers.

In addition, the government will raise a special fund for long-running communities or organizations to enhance their research and development capabilities. An existing fund for agriculture and food is about 10 billion won ($9 billion).

Given that the number of workers in rural areas is shrinking, the government will try bringing in a pool of experts who are willing to donate their talent to encourage people to return to farms.

“The main idea of the latest plan is to establish an environment where farmland residents can freely and voluntarily pitch ideas, build products and sell them,” sad Vice Minister Yeo In-hong.

The ministry is set to send the National Assembly a bill on government support for the agricultural industry by the end of the year.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]
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