Officials to move more produce to marketsAs the Lunar New Year approaches, the government has come up with a set of measures, including distributing more state-owned agricultural products, to stabilize prices and to reduce the financial burden on Korean households.
The government will cooperate with other public sectors to distribute agricultural products such as fruits and vegetables that they have stored starting Friday, as retail prices continue to rise ahead of the holiday. They plan to distribute 140 percent more products than normal, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said on Tuesday.
“Overall consumer prices remain stable but agricultural products including vegetables and eggs are rising rapidly ahead of the holiday,” said Yoo Soo-young, a director at the Finance Ministry.
“We are worried about the economic sentiment of low- and middle-income households weakening due to the possible fall in domestic demand for gifts for the holiday as this will be the first Lunar New Year after the Kim Young-ran law went into effect. We plan to reduce the negative impact coming from the law and will try to boost the domestic demand by expanding financial support to traditional markets and ask people to take vacations during the holiday.”
The Finance Ministry said it will have the state-run agricultural retailers such as National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (Nonghyup) reserve 20 percent of eggs until Jan. 20 so that people shopping on the fourth week of the month, the week of the holiday, can purchase them without facing a shortage.
The government also recently has allowed fresh eggs to be imported from the United States, and they are expected to arrive before the holiday.
It also will consider temporarily lifting a ban on the distribution of eggs that are safe but come from farms close to outbreaks of avian influenza starting Jan. 16 to deal with a shortage that is driving up prices.
Nonghyup stores will give a 10 to 30 percent discount on products that people usually purchase during the New Year holiday such as gift packages and fruits. Other traditional markets will also offer promotions, according to the Finance Ministry.
According to the ministry, the government will give financial support worth 22 trillion won ($18.4 billion) to small and midsize companies for the holiday, which is 800 billion won more compared to the previous year. Small companies can borrow from the government at a lower interest rate compared to private financial institutions.
BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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