Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Unfavorable weather blamed for high vegetable prices

The rain gets blamed for everything. The Korea Times has an article on the rising cost of vegetables, due in part to the poor growing weather this year.
This year the spring season was unusually short, chilly while the summer was extremely hot and accompanied by heavy rainfall. According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, the average temperature this past April was the lowest since 1973 at 9.9 degrees Celsius. The average duration of sunshine across the country in April was 176.5 hours ― much shorter than 215 hours last year. [...]

In the meantime, the prices of ssam or leafy vegetables for wrap dishes are greatly affecting restaurant owners. Lee Mi-kyung, an owner of two restaurants, says that five kilograms of sangchu or lettuce reached 130,000 won.

At one of her restaurants, she had to stop serving lettuce, replacing it with sesame leaves and small cabbages because of the price hikes.

According to the Seoul Agricultural & Marine Products Corp., the average price of green lettuce auctioned at the Garak market for the last seven days was 40,200 won ― up from 3,943 won during the same period last year.
Ouch, though a ten-fold increase seems ridiculously steep. Can we be sure the KT got that right? A similar story was on the front page of the Chosun Ilbo Saturday, titled "These days, the scariest words for restaurant owners are "More lettuce, please."" It included this graphic, which has the average retail price for the vegetable over the last five years compared to its retail price on September 10.

The statistics above suggest the price for lettuce has increased three times, while someone interviewed in the Chosun article described an increase from 14,000 won (for 4kg of lettuce) last year to 60-70,000 won this year (or it would if there wasn't one too many '만's in it: '1만4000만원').

I can't say I've ever seen a Korean Hare, but I don't imagine they'd be popular with farmers this year. Oddly enough, if you put that last sentence in a mirror, you might end up with this.


John from Daejeon said...

I wonder how much of "this" price increase is actually from the government reclaiming all those illegal gardens from around the peninsula.

Four years ago, when I first arrived, the old folks would even plant their cabbages in the medians between the city's major thoroughfares, but over the last couple of years that arable land is now used for inedible flowers to supposedly beautify the city and help keep South Korean farmers' crop prices high instead of as food for the masses and an outlet for displaced older farmers as is the land along most of the city's river systems that, until recently, was a gardener's paradise.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

They complain of high veggie prices, yet they talk of giving the North loads of their rice so they keep THAT high.

John from Daejeon said...

Doesn't help that it is also holiday time. A time for sellers to gouge the public anyway they can.

matt said...

Darth Babaganoosh:

Shockingly, the Hankyoreh supports it, for humane reasons of course. Not sure how I feel about it myself, but I imagine Korean farmers charge too much for rice to make exporting it elsewhere very likely.

John from Daejeon:

I wonder what percentage the land used by 'guerrilla gardeners' makes up out of the whole. I remember before the commercial areas of the Jung-dong new city in Bucheon were developed, the empty lots were either used as parking lots or as seemingly communal gardens. Within a year they were all gone, so I never found out how exactly the gardening arrangement worked (was it illegal? Partly legal? Were areas portioned out? Was it a free for all and people worked it out among themselves?). I'm not really sure. Then again, I'm not exactly sure how 'weekend gardens' work either, where city folks get (rent?) a plot and grow food there with lots of other people. Whether they are privately run or publicly owned, I'm not sure.

seouldout said...

Wait 'til winter!

See what a protectionism gets ya?

An entire 5kg box of Kuwaiti grown cucumbers... 80 fils, which is about $0.85. Fours heads of tender romaine lettuce... $1.50.

The Syrian strawberries are rubbish. Same too for Turkish and Lebanese ones. Wish I had some Korean ones. Fantastic.

David Ricardo, have you been forgotten?