South Korea offers loans to squeezed farmers

seoul / reuters / South Korea will offer $156 million in soft loans this year to farmers squeezed by record prices of feed grain and a weak domestic market for pork, the Agriculture Ministry said on Feb. 28.

Livestock farmers in South Korea, the world’s third-largest importer of corn and a leading buyer of soybean meal and wheat, suffered last year as feed grain prices surged to a record amidst the worst U.S. drought in five decades.

The initiative is the country’s first measure to help farmers tackle high feed costs and will be accompanied by efforts to cut pork supply and boost consumption, so as to pull pork prices off five-year lows.

The funds on offer are sufficient to buy around 500,000 tonnes of corn at current prices. South Korea bought 7.6 million tonnes of corn in 2011-12.

South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest importer of pork last year, accounted for about seven per cent of global trade, U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows. The 500,000 tonnes of pork the country imported in 2012 covered about a third of annual consumption, the USDA said.

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