SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Rice production in South Korea is now estimated to reach 3.86 million tonnes, up 3% from the initial forecast, due to a higher-than-expected planted area, according to a June 29 report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Despite the government’s attempt to reduce rice paddy area, farmers still have a preference for growing rice because its pricing is subsidized.

Rice area is estimated at 728,000 hectares, only 0.3% down from the previous year.

For imports, COVID-19 related logistical issues are expected to increase the portion of 2020 tariff-rate quota (TRQ) delivered in the first half of 2021, the USDA said.

As a result, 2020-21 rice imports are revised upward to 500,000 tonnes and 2019-20 imports are expected to decrease.

Under the 2020 TRQ, South Korea has purchased 132,994 tonnes, or 33%, of the total TRQ. Actual delivery for the remainder of the TRQ is expected to occur in the first half of 2021.

“The United States has sold just 20,000 tonnes (milled) of the 2020 TRQ so far, due to the slower pace of the bidding process caused by COVID-19, which has also affected imports from Vietnam,” the USDA said. “Australia has had reduced supply for export following consecutive droughts, while China and Thailand have so far been able to sell at a normal pace with stable and competitive rice market prices.”