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South Korea introduces 513 rice import tariff

South Korea plans to introduce a tariff in the amount of 513 percent on rice imports in order to protect its farmers several months before the country opens its rice market to foreign producers, according to news agency RUSKOR with reference to The Wall Street Journal.

Rice import is a political and social issue in South Korea, as most farmers strongly oppose opening up the market in fear of losses due to cheap imports. South Korea was allowed to gradually increase import quotas for rice instead of opening up the market entirely by agreement with the World Trade Organization. The agreement expires at the end of 2014.

The South Korean government has announced that it will introduce a tariff in the amount of 513 percent from the beginning of next year on the import of foreign rice, which exceeds the annual grain import quota. The annual quota for rice imports by South Korea is 408 700 tons this year or 9 percent of the total demand, while the tariff for grain imports is set at 5 percent.

Agriculture Minister Lee Dong-phil said the tariff was "the highest the WTO allows to protect local rice producers." “Perhaps only a few South Koreans will be willing to pay sky-high prices for foreign rice,” said a ministry spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The last decision of Seoul took place against the background of reducing rice consumption per capita in the country, which fell to 67,2 kilogram last year from 80,7 kilogram in 2005 year. Recent studies have also shown that South Koreans do not show much interest in imported grains.

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