The government will buy 720,000 tons of rice harvested this year to stabilize domestic market prices amid chronic oversupply of the staple grain, the agriculture ministry said Thursday.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said it will buy 350,000 tons of rice for its reserve and 370,000 tons to help maintain market prices at a certain level.
The government increased the amount of rice purchased for the supply adjustment from 299,000 tons in 2016, when rice prices fell to a 21-year low.
As the rice surplus last year was estimated at about 300,000 tons, the government's purchase for the purpose of price stabilization this year is expected to surpass surplus production, the ministry said.
"Although the official rice production data hasn't been announced, this year's purchase volume for market stabilization is expected to exceed the extra amount produced," Agriculture Minister Kim Young-rok said in a press briefing. "As the government plans to buy enough rice to separate it from the market, I expect it would help stabilize rice prices."
There was an excess of 300,000 tons of rice last year, as the 4.2 million-ton supply far exceeded the 3.9 million tons consumed, and the glut will likely be around 200,000 tons in 2017.
The chronic oversupply of rice comes as a growing number of South Koreans have been reducing their rice intake and diversifying their diets with alternatives like wheat, barley, beans and corn.
As part of efforts to reduce the excess of rice, the government also plans to finalize its preparations to join the Food Assistance Convention (FAC) this year to ship 50,000 tons of rice overseas annually.
The FAC is a 14-nation convention aimed at promoting global food security and providing humanitarian food assistance to developing countries. Members include the United States, the European Union, Canada, Japan and Australia.