Politics of the rice glut

Home > Opinion > Editorials

print dictionary print

Politics of the rice glut

The Democratic Party (DP) is pushing for a controversial revision to the Grain Management Act by taking advantage of its supermajority 169 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. On Tuesday, the leadership of the party vowed to pass the revision in a full meeting of the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee. However, not only the details of the revision but also the procedure showed many loopholes.

We agree to the need to address the plunging prices of rice this year. But the DP wants to make it mandatory for the government to purchase excess rice from farmers. The revision forces the government to buy rice from farmers when their output exceeds 3 percent of their expected production or when the price falls more than five percent compared to the average price. But it cannot be a fundamental solution to address the chronic overproduction — and ever-declining consumption — of rice in Korea.

The government already spent about 790 billion won ($554.6 million) to purchase the 370,000 tons of rice overproduced last year. The Korea Rural Economic Institute expected the amount of overproduction to soar to 640,000 tons by 2030 if the revision comes into force. The institute predicted that at least 1.4-trillion-won extra funding will be needed to cover the cost. The DP cites the significance of food security, but realistic solutions are government investments in boosting future-oriented agricultural businesses.

That’s why the DP did not accept farmer group demand for mandatory purchase when it took power. Only 11 months ago, Hong Nam-ki, the vice prime minister for economic affairs under the Moon Jae-in administration, said that rice prices were still high.

The DP is set to railroad the revision through. It already passed the revision in a subcommittee last week. Now, the DP plans to pass it in a full meeting of the agricultural committee on Wednesday. The issue is not that urgent. After the Yoon Suk-yeol administration last month announced a plan to buy 900,000 tons, rice prices rebounded, up 17 percent from late September.

The DP knows well that the Yoon administration and the People Power Party (PPP) have the power to veto the revision even if the PPP cannot pass any bills on its own. Agricultural Minister Chung Hwang-keun said that such a revision will not be of any help in developing our agricultural sector over the long haul. Yet the DP does not care. Why? The party last month pledged to pass the revision on its tour to the Honam region, its home turf. If the DP made the promise to win the votes of people in the region in next elections, the revision is ill-intended from the start.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)