Opening of the South Korean rice market is forecast to accelerate from next year onward. Rice for boiling is likely to be additionally imported in view of WTO rules although the rice tariff rate will be maintained at 513 percent.
South Korea acceded to the WTO in 1995 with tariffication on all agricultural products with the only exception of rice, the tariffication on which was deferred twice. Instead, rice import has been permitted at a tariff rate of 5 percent with regard to the tariff-rate quota (TRQ).
After the grace period ended in 2014, the government opted for no more deferment and notified the WTO of a tariff rate of 513 percent. Then, the United States, China, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam called the rate and its TRQ management into question and a verification process related to the appropriateness of the rate started in 2015.
“As a result of the process, the rate will be maintained as it is along with the TRQ management and the total TRQ of 408,700 tons,” the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs explained, adding, “However, some import of rice for boiling is inevitable in view of WTO rules and the five countries’ claims.”
South Korea imported the TRQ rice for processing purposes only from 1995 to 2004 and the international community pointed out that this was a violation of WTO rules. As a result, a mandatory rice import of 30 percent became effective for the period of 2005 to 2014. The import volume for this year is approximately 20,000 tons.
As a result of the recent agreement, 388,700 tons out of the total TRQ will be divided into 157,195 tons from China, 132,304 tons from the United States, 55,112 tons from Vietnam, 28,494 tons from Thailand and 15,595 tons from Australia based on 2015-to-2017 import data. The remaining 20,000 tons is a global quota.