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Rice Import Cut: South Korea's K-Ricebelt Project Extends Support to Africa

South Korea's commitment to enhancing rice production in Africa through the K-Ricebelt Project demonstrates its determination to contribute to global food security and support countries in need.

Shivam Dwivedi
Rice Import Cut: South Korea Pledges Support to Africa (Photo Source: Telangana State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited)
Rice Import Cut: South Korea Pledges Support to Africa (Photo Source: Telangana State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited)

South Korea is taking significant steps to enhance rice production and reduce the reliance on imports in eight African nations. Agriculture Minister Chung Hwang-keun has announced that an agreement will be signed next week, highlighting South Korea's commitment to addressing food security concerns in Africa.

This initiative is part of President Yoon Suk Yeol's broader foreign policy revamp, aimed at positioning South Korea as a "global pivotal state" with a more active role worldwide. Known as the "K-Ricebelt Project," South Korea plans to establish facilities in Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Senegal, Cameroon, Uganda, and Kenya.

These facilities will focus on producing rice seeds that are better suited to local conditions, offering yields two to three times higher than domestic varieties. Minister Chung emphasized the urgent need for assistance, as officials in Africa expressed their desperate requirements during his visits to the continent last year.

The global concern for food security became apparent when rice prices nearly doubled due to disruptions in the supply chain. These rising costs, combined with increased food imports, put significant pressure on the foreign exchange reserves of the African countries involved. While rice is a staple in West Africa, local production only meets approximately 60% of demand, leaving the region highly vulnerable to price volatility and trade disruptions.

To address these challenges, South Korea plans to allocate more than 100 billion won ($77 million) to the "K-Ricebelt Project" over the next four years. The goal is to distribute 10,000 tonnes of rice seeds annually starting from 2027. Minister Chung stated that President Yoon Suk Yeol is committed to providing assistance, emphasizing the importance of reciprocating the support South Korea received during its own difficult times.

South Korea has managed to produce enough rice to meet over 90% of local demand, but it still heavily relies on certain food imports. By extending its expertise and resources to Africa, South Korea aims to bolster rice production in the participating countries, ultimately improving food security and reducing dependence on imports.

The agriculture ministers from the eight African nations involved are scheduled to visit Seoul on Monday to sign the agreements related to the project. The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed this endeavor, with Marian Sunhee Yun, the director of WFP Korea Office, expressing appreciation for the K-Rice project. Yun believes that the initiative will provide exceptional rice varieties and hope to small farmers in Africa who are grappling with the challenges of the climate crisis.

As the agreements are signed and the project progresses, it is expected that the collaboration between South Korea and the participating African nations will yield significant positive outcomes for agriculture and food sustainability in the region.

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