|▲ Highland cabbage fields where cabbage has withered due to the spread of soft rot, caused by heavy rain (Source: The Chosun Ilbo)|
Food material prices are skyrocketing before Chuseok, the national holiday. Since the beginning of this year, the global inflation situation has continued, due to the Russian-Ukraine war and the Corona pandemic. Additionally, in August, the price of food materials is continuing to soar, due to the three-days of heavy rain damage.
This year's Chuseok holiday runs for four days from September 9 to 12. On Chuseok, each household prepares an ancestral rite, to wrap up the year's farming and pray for abundance. Foods served on the ancestral rite include fruits and vegetables, flour, cooking oil, fish, and Korean sweets. Every year from late August to early September, consumers start shopping for Chuseok in earnest, to prepare food materials for the ancestral rite. Food material prices are soaring at a time when consumption is highest. The torrential rain that lasted for three days ahead of the harvest, is the main reason for the surge in prices of fresh vegetables and fruits.
A farmer in a highland cabbage field in Taebaek, Gangwon-do, said, "The heat wave in July had already prevented cabbage from growing well, but it rained ahead of the harvest, causing the cabbages to contract ‘Soft Rot.’" Soft rot is a bacteria that spreads in rainwater, and it appears severely in the event of heavy rain. Due to rotting from the bottom of the cabbage, all cabbages with soft rot, wither and become useless. In addition, vinyl greenhouses that grow various fruits were submerged in muddy water due to the torrential rain, and the fruits became soft or broken.
As the supply shortage of fresh vegetables and fruits became serious due to heavy rain damage, large domestic retailers are having trouble securing enough supplies, ahead of Chuseok. In the case of E-Mart, in order to secure the necessary quantity of apples, they are looking for producing areas other than Cheongsong and Andong, which are famous production areas, that are less damaged by the heavy rain. Lotte Mart is contacting various farms to find spinach that is not submerged in rainwater. The distribution industry is focusing on securing supplies by visiting various production areas and pre-purchasing them to secure supplies, even if the quality of products is a little lower.
According to the National Statistical Office, the price of fresh vegetables has already risen 26% as compared to the previous year, due to the heat wave in July. Prices of fresh vegetables jumped sharply, as production decreased due to torrential rain damage. Fresh vegetables and fruits are not the only items that add to the burden of Chuseok shopping. The price of cooking oil (3.8%) and flour (41.1%), which are necessary ingredients for baking 'Jeon,' which are indispensable necessities for Chuseok foods, have also risen. The price of ‘Songpyeon,’ the representative food of Chuseok, also increased by 10%. This is due to an imbalance between supply and demand, caused by the Ukraine-Russia war, that began earlier this year amidst the ongoing Corona pandemic.
Meanwhile, the government has come up with a countermeasure, to provide discounts of up to 65 billion won for agricultural, livestock, and fisheries products, so that customers can receive 20 to 30 percent in discounts at large marts, online malls, and traditional markets. However, some analysts say that if more goods are recorded at a larger increase than the discount rate, the effect of price reduction as experienced by the consumer, will not be significant.
The combined global inflation impact and supply shortages caused by torrential rain damage, are expected to increase the burden on all consumers preparing for Chuseok this year. The world is suffering from many hardships due to the unusual phenomenon of the Russian-Ukraine war and the Corona pandemic. During the Chuseok holiday, we hope you will put down these troubles for a while, and have an enjoyable Chuseok with your family.
By Kim Su-gyeong, cub-reporter email@example.com
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