WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — South Korea’s rice production for 2019-20 is estimated at 3.88 million tonnes, unchanged from the initial estimate despite attempts by the government to reduce rice acreage.

Actual rice planting area has declined 1,000 hectares, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Total area has been declining each year with decreases ranging from 5,000 hectares to 38,000 hectares since 2001. In 2019, acreage decreased by 7,000 hectares.

“A bullish domestic rice market as well as rice subsidy programs that are attractive compared to those for other crops nullified government programs targeting a reduction in rice area of 55,000 hectare to relieve the burden of heavy stocks that have been accumulating since 2013-14,” the USDA said.

The rice consumption estimate also is unchanged from the previous report at 4.49 million tonnes.

For the first six months in 2018-19, Korean feed millers used 300,840 tonnes of brown rice for animal feed, down 7.8% over the same period of the previous marketing year, with the total expected to reach about 600,000 tonnes (milled).

Korea’s rice exports are expected to increase to 104,000 tonnes in 2018/19 due to various donations, including:

·          50,000-tonne rice donation under the Food Assistance Convention (FAC)

·          1,000-tonne donation to Myanmar and Laos under the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR)

·          50,000-tonne planned donation from the Korean government to the DPRK through the World Food Program (WFP)

An additional 3,000 tonnes will be exported as part of commercial trade.

The forecast for 2019-20 ending stocks is down 7% from the previous forecast due to the rice donation to the DPRK as well as a lower production forecast attributable to a smaller planting area.

Ending stocks estimates for 2018 are projected to slide to 1.02 million tonnes, a decrease of 5% from the previous report.

“Based on the forecast 2019-20 stock levels, even with all the policy challenges around rice production and trade, the Korean government may be able to show a reduction of grain on hand by close to 50% in five years’ time,” the USDA said.