Gov’t gives rice subsidies early boost

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Gov’t gives rice subsidies early boost

The government raised subsidies for rice farmers in the country by 100,000 won ($93) on average from a year earlier, to account for Korea opening its rice market to imports.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced Monday it would raise the subsidies for rice farmers to an average of 1 million won per hectare of their lands.

Considering that the average size of each rice farmer’s land in the country is 1.1 hectares, the average rice subsidy is expected to be 1.1 million won.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, the subsidy amount will differ depending on land type.

For the lands within the so-called areas for boosting agriculture, which are designated by the government for farming and banned for other purposes, farmers will see an increase of 106,229 won in their subsidy, to about 1.07 million won per hectare.

For other lands outside the areas, the subsidy will rise by 79,672 won to about 807,000 won per hectare, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Statistically, 71.6 percent of Korea’s farming lands, or about 598,000 hectares, are designated as restricted areas.

To prevent any farmer from receiving excessive subsidies through false reporting, the agriculture ministry will raise the reward for anyone who informs on violators, up to a maximum of 2 million won per informant.

The subsidy increase came after the government’s announcement in July 2014 that it would open up Korea’s rice market to imports subject to tariffs. Protesting the move, farmers demanded something in return.

At the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization in 1993, Korea was allowed to postpone the opening for 10 years, beginning 1995.

In 2004, Korea again extended the deadline to 2014, in return for increasing its minimum import of rice, known as minimum market access (MMA), by 20,000 tons per year.

As the deadline with the WTO expires, Korea is required to keep its annual quota for rice imports, 408,700 ton at minimum with a 5 percent tariff imposed.

To protect Korean farmers, the government announced it would impose a 513 percent tariff on rice imports that exceed the mandatory amount.

In the midst of protests by farmers in September 2014, the ruling Saenuri Party and the government announced it would raise the rice subsidy to 1 million won per hectare.

The government was supposed to do so starting 2017, but accelerated the raise to this year.

BY KIM HEE-JIN, LEE TAE-KYUNG [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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