Food prices fail to ease in Korea as unusually lengthy and sizzling heat wave hurt crop yield that has been disrupted by unseasonable weather factors throughout the year, making lives tougher for Koreans grappling with job insecurity and stagnation in income and economy.
The wholesale prices of farm produces as of the end of July hovered 6.5 percent above their normal levels. Staple vegetables - napa cabbages and white radish - cost 50 percent or more than the usual summer prices, according to a study by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Wednesday.
Wholesale napa cabbage price reached 3,500 won per head on July 31, nearly doubling from 1,630 won at the beginning of the month. White radish sold at 2,026 won by July-end, compared with 1,128 won early July. The government has been releasing its stock and increasing imports to stabilize fresh food prices that have stayed high in earlier months due to weather surprises.
The mercury neared a boiling point throughout last month, averaging 32.5 degrees Celsius (90.5 degrees Fahrenheit), last month and above the normal July level of 28 degrees in the mountainous Gangwon Province where many of the country’s cabbages and radish farms are located.
Rain also was rare. Precipitation in the region averaged 15 millimeters over the cited period or just 12 percent of the average 117 millimeters. The harsh weather condition is forecast to go on for the coming weeks with the temperature touching new highs.
Summer fruit prices also rose sharply in recent weeks. Wholesale peach price was 11.4 percent higher above the usual level. An 8-kilogram watermelon that cost 12,524 won in early July shot up to 21,384 won by the end of last month, which is 54 percent higher than normal.
Prices of agricultural products in July gained 4.2 percent from a year ago period and vegetable prices were up 3.7 percent on year, according to the Statistics Korea data. The country’s headline inflation rose 1.5 percent on year due to the jump in fresh food and fuel costs.
By Lee Yu-sup and Cho Jeehyun
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]