South Korea’s food security alarmBy Asia Sentinel Apr 30, 2011 9:11AM UTC
A new report from the Samsung chaebol advocates a Korean domestic and international food revolution writes John Berthelsen for Asia Sentinel.
If there is any country on the planet worried about its food supply, it is South Korea, which imports more than 90 percent of its food from overseas, including almost all of its wheat and corn.
The government recently bought more than 325,999 hectares in Mongolia as part of its effort to develop an overseas food base to procure more food resources. That is after the Daewoo chaebol was stymied in its effort in 2008 to lease 1.3 million hectares of Madagascar – almost half the country’s arable land — for 99 years. South Korean farmers are growing corn in Cambodia. As many as 60 South Korean companies are involved in farming in 16 countries, harvesting some 87,000 metric tons of grain from 24,000 hectares of farmland, according to Anders Riel Muller, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Food and Development Policy, USA and an adviser to the, Nordic Center for Renewable Energy, Denmark in a March 19 article.
The coming crisis, if it is that, has shaken awake the Samsung Economic Research Institute, an arm of the giant Samsung conglomerate, which this week issued a 16-page report on food security. The report, titled New Food Strategies in the Age of Global Food Crises, (registration and password needed) advocates that “it is necessary to secure foreign bases for food production through overseas agricultural development,” providing comprehensive support for domestic firms striving to build food production bases abroad,” and pay for it through overseas agricultural development funds. Among other things, the report advocates that the government draw up a roadmap for agricultural cooperation to develop food resources in the starvation-ridden North Korea “through inter-Korean agricultural cooperation is useful in the context of building South Korea’s overseas food base, while at the same time preparing for surging food demand upon unification.”
In particular, according to the report, there are concerns that food-producing companies will “weaponize” food through export restrictions. “It is now increasingly likely that food security among importing countries will be threatened by diminishing supplies,” the authors write. “In the summer of 2010 when anxiety over food supplies grew intense, Russia and Ukraine imposed restrictive measures on grain exports. Coupled with a forecast for severe weather abnormalities to increase in the next few years, it is likely that anxiety over food supplies will spread, and weaponization of food will occur more often.”