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South Korea's rice woes to anger farmers and US
SEOUL (Reuters) - Foreign rice keeps coming into South Korea, but farmers are protesting, retailers are not putting it on store shelves and Seoul is facing the possibility of failing to meet the requirements of an international trade deal.

South Korea reached a deal with nine rice exporting countries where Seoul would be allowed to gradually open its market to imports of the grain in exchange for putting foreign rice on the market for its consumers.

South Korea has held five auctions to sell the first batch of 1,372 tonnes of U.S. rice and another batch of Chinese rice, but wholesalers have stayed away fearing they would be attacked by farmers, who have a history of violent protests.

"If Seoul does not start selling the rice, Washington is going to start complaining," said Seo Jin-Kyo, an agrarian economist at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

"Washington may take more drastic measures that will force South Korea to open its market more quickly and wider than the country may be ready for," he added.

Under the deal South Korea struck with exporting countries in 2004, Seoul was obliged to sell 22,557 tonnes of imported rice directly to its consumers in 2005. The volume is expected to increase to 122,610 tonnes in 2014.

In return, South Korea received a 10-year grace period for implementing tariffs on rice.

But it sold no foreign rice to consumers last year or so far this year.
MGR Archive 5.5.2006
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