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Korean farmers' protest keeps US rice off shelves
The shipment of 1,372 tonnes of US No1 rice will be auctioned tomorrow, but retailers and supermarket chains are staying away as they worry they will be the target of protests if they sell the American product.

The shipment arrived about two weeks ago at the southern port of Pusan, where hundreds of farmers clashed with police outside the gates when it arrived.

It has been sent to a warehouse near Seoul and is guarded by police.

Farmers, who have a record of violent protests, are angry at the US imports and vow to mount demonstrations at each step along the way for the rice shipment in South Korea.

According to the state-run Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation, which brought the rice to the country, about 40 distributors will take part in the bidding at the auction.

The prospective bidders are mostly wholesalers or companies making processed foods.

Big supermarkets and retailers will not be there, and even some wholesalers are looking to do deals as discretely as possible.

"I'm afraid of being beaten to death by farmers," said the owner of a rice wholesaler in Seoul.

The US rice will likely end up at restaurants, served to consumers who do not know they are eating the imported food or go to places that make processed food, officials said.

One leading retailer said the idea of bidding on the rice was never considered. "We didn't want to risk ruining our brand value due to the possible protests from farmers," said an official at Shinsegae, a top South Korean discount store chain.

Farmers claim that the US rice will destroy their livelihoods. But some consumers hope that imports may eventually lead to lower prices for a key staple.

Parliament approved a deal last year to open the market slightly for foreign imports and allow for the first direct sales to consumers.

The move began the process that led to the US rice arriving in Pusan. Other foreign rice has arrived, but it has only been used for processed foods.
MGR Archive 5.4.2006
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Region Type Price  
Russia Rapan $ 700
USA Jupiter Rice $630
USA Calrose #1 $830
USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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