As Chuseok approaches, Emart stockpiles hanwoo

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As Chuseok approaches, Emart stockpiles hanwoo

With the Chuseok harvest holiday just a month away, Emart, the country’s largest discount chain, said that it is trying to limit price increases to its Korean beef gift sets.

The beef, known as hanwoo, is the most popular present for Korea’s biggest traditional holiday.

Emart said on Thursday it has been stacking up beef at its meat center starting in March to release hanwoo gift sets at “reasonable prices” for Chuseok, which falls from Sept. 23 to 25 this year.

Due to the sweltering heat and cold weather that hit Korea this year, the price of fruits, vegetables and meat needed for holiday preparations has been rising recently.

“Amid a steep rise in the price of goods for Chuseok, we are putting a lot of effort into stabilizing prices through securing inventory in advance and minimizing margins,” said Choi Hoon-hak, the head of marketing at Emart.

Producer prices for hanwoo have surged between 5 and 8 percent lately compared to the same period a year ago as hanwoo supplies shrank. Korean farms have been producing less beef as Koreans have grown to prefer cheaper imported beef.

Emart has been stacking up frozen hanwoo since March, just after the Lunar New Year holidays. The retail outlet has prepared some 52,000 sets of frozen hanwoo, up 15.6 percent from last year’s 45,000 sets, to minimize price increases. Frozen hanwoo will make up 60 percent of all the hanwoo gift sets at Emart this year.

Emart has already fixed the prices of some gift sets at the same level as last year. Mixed hanwoo set No. 1, for instance, carries a price tag of 198,000 won ($176), a hanwoo fresh meat set costs 98,000 won and a premium hanwoo galbi set will cost 280,000 won.

Not much can be done to cut the price of apples and pears, the essential fruits for the Chuseok ancestral rites.

Due to unexpectedly cold weather in May and the heat wave this summer, the amount of apples and pears produced has been reduced by 15 to 20 percent this year, leading the fruits’ producer prices to increase by 20 percent.

Prospects for seafood prices are mixed. Gift sets of dried yellow corvine, or gulbi, which is traditionally placed on the ancestral rite table, will sell at similar prices or increase by only 10 percent or so at Emart.

The retailer says it secured a large amount of the fish when its prices were low.

Choi said that consumers who wish to save on gifts are encouraged to take advantage of preorders that will last until Sept. 12 for discounts of up to 40 percent.

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