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Climate change is impacting South Korean agriculture

The Korean Peninsula is experiencing a notable transformation towards a subtropical climate, leading to a decline in national fruit production areas traditionally situated in temperate zones. This shift is part of a broader pattern of abnormal weather phenomena globally, yet the warming rate in Korea surpasses the global average. Data from the Korea Meteorological Administration indicates that from 1912 to 2020, Korea's average annual temperature increased by 0.2 degrees Celsius every decade, a rate three times faster than the global average. Additionally, the rise in surface water temperature in Korea was 2.6 times the global average.

Agricultural price volatility in Korea is the highest among major countries, with an annual standard deviation of 7.8 from 2001 to 2023, outpacing that of 13 other major countries, including the United States, Japan, and France. The narrow land area of Korea contributes to the frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, heavy rains, and typhoons, adversely affecting agricultural production nationwide. Changes in climate have particularly impacted the supply and demand of import-restricted items like apples, with open-field apple cultivation areas decreasing by 35.4% over the past 30 years.

Conversely, the production of subtropical crops in Korea has seen significant growth, with the cultivation area for 18 subtropical crops, including mangoes and bananas, increasing by 9.9% from 2019 to 2022. Despite this growth, the total area for subtropical crop production remains a mere 0.6% of that for traditional fruits like apples, pears, and grapes.

Future projections suggest that climate change will continue to exert influence on agricultural production, with potential implications for agricultural prices and overall consumer price levels. Farmers, such as Yoon In-seop from Cheongsong, North Gyeongsang Province, express concerns over the increasing difficulty of farming due to climate-induced challenges.

The disparity between the consumer price index and the actual prices experienced by the public is growing, particularly in the context of rising agricultural product prices. Experts emphasize the importance of stabilizing supply through enhanced observation of supply and demand dynamics and the adoption of capital-intensive agricultural practices, such as smart farms. Additionally, suggestions have been made to support facility investment in fruit supply and to consider differential minimum wage applications to reduce production costs, given the significant portion of farm production costs attributed to hiring foreign workers.


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