SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Rice production in South Korea is forecast to decline in marketing year 2023-24 by nearly 3% to 3.6 million tonnes on reduced acreage in response to government incentives encouraging farmers to switch to other grains, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture.

“Due to continuously decreasing per capita rice consumption, as well as declining population, the Korean government has introduced incentives for farmers to switch from rice to other crops, including soybean and wheat,” the FAS said. “Additionally, the (government) has been encouraging the production of a new rice variety suitable for use in flour (as a substitute for wheat) to increase the self-sufficiency rate of food grains.”

Wheat production is projected to benefit from this policy and reach a 40-year high of 46,000 tonnes this year, although it would still be short of the government’s goal of 60,000 tonnes. Wheat imports are expected to be unchanged from the previous year at 4.5 million tonnes, while consumption is seen also holding steady at 4.1 million tonnes.

The FAS said the increase in wheat demand in recent years in South Korea is due to “a growing preference for Western-style snacks and treats that can be consumed quickly on the go, such as bread and pastries, rather than traditional Korean rice-based meals.”

The report noted that South Korea is sourcing its wheat from a more diverse set of suppliers. Notably, the country’s market share of Eastern European and Russian feed wheat in 2022-23 dropped to 11% from 85% in the previous year, while it increased its intake from Australia from 15% to 69%.