Kimchi, one of South Korea's most popular traditional dishes, is in serious jeopardy in 2020. The extreme weather that has affected South Korea for months has devastated the fields of cabbage used to make this recipe. The low temperatures in spring were not only followed by a heatwave in summer, but by typhoons, floods, and landslides.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the production has decreased by 40% over the previous year, which has triggered prices by up to 60%, causing alarm among consumers, as 95% of South Koreans eat kimchi, spicy and fermented cabbage, more than once a day. This dish is an essential part of Korea's diet. According to estimates, the country consumes more than two million tons of kimchi each year.
Kimchi production, intangible heritage of humanity
This news arrives just before the Kimjang, the annual communal act of making kimchi that Unesco recognized as an intangible heritage of humanity in 2013. This tradition, which is celebrated between the end of October and November, transcends regional and class differences and its collective practice reaffirms the Korean identity and is an excellent opportunity to strengthen family cooperation. In short, it is a ritual event in which many people dust off recipes that were handed down from generation to generation on how to season cabbages with chili powder, garlic, and other condiments before storing it in large jars to ferment during winter.
The shortage of cabbage is not only affecting final consumers. Daesang, the country's leading kimchi producer, has temporarily suspended its online sales due to a shortage of cabbage. Another major food company, CJ CheilJedang, is looking for alternative supplies to meet demand, which is especially high this year as more people eat at home due to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, authorities earlier approved an immediate temporary suspension of tariffs on imported cabbage from China, which ships about 30 tons a day, according to the state media Global Times. Seoul authorities have supplied the busiest markets with hundreds of thousands of cabbages at 70% of their market price.