SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — South Korean rice production in 2018-19 is forecast to decline by 3% compared to the previous year, according to an April 9 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report said output is forecast to decline to 3.85 million tonnes from 3.97 million tonnes. Rice consumption in South Korea for 2018-19 is forecast at 4.4 million tonnes, a 9% drop from estimates for the current marketing year due to decreasing allocation of rice used for feed as old rice stocks have been depleted.

Per capita table rice consumption in South Korea continues to decline as eating habits change due to rising incomes and the growing popularity of Western foods, the report said.

Rice area has continued to decrease annually — with decreases ranging from 5,000 hectares to 38,000 hectares every year since 2001, the report said. In 2017, rice planting/harvesting area decreased by 24,018 hectares, down 3.1 % from last year, as more land went into housing and building construction and the conversion of rice paddy land to more profitable cash crops.

Rice ending stocks for 2018-19 (at the end of October 2019) are forecast to decrease to 950,000 tonnes, or 22% of total consumption. The government continues its efforts to reduce rice in storage with rice stocks approaching the FAO recommended level of 800,000 tonnes, the report noted.