Farmers see red, again

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

They will keep protesting A free trade agreement (fta) between Chile and South Korea is making farmers in the latter country extremely restive. The South Korean national assembly's decision to debate its ratification brought them out on the streets again. Farmers see the fta -- which will pave the way for cheap food imports -- as a death warrant and have managed to delay its adoption for 10 months through vigorous and often violent protests.

South Korea's 3.6 million farmers have managed to eek out an existence in the face of increased imports of cheaper food following trade liberalisation measures already enacted. A 1994 wto accord allowed South Korea a 10-year grace period to maintain tariffs on rice imports on condition that it gradually lowered or eventually removed tariffs on other farm products. Since then South Korea's farm product imports have increased, rising from us $4.68 billion in 1998 to us $5.70 billion in 2003.

At the same time farmers have been falling deeper into debt, with each farming household carrying an average debt of some 20 million won (us $17,000 dollars), according to government figures.

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