The government will allow rice produced in 2005 to be used as feed for livestock in an effort to reduce the rice surplus, Minister of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chang Tae-pyong said Tuesday.
"The government's policy is to dispose of old rice produced in 2005, which is deemed unfit for human consumption, as animal feed," Chang said in an interview with a local news agency.
According to the ministry, the country's feed producers estimate that about 360,000 metric tons of rice can be used to produce feed over a period of one year.
The measure is aimed at reducing South Korea's growing rice surplus, which according to the Agriculture Ministry's estimates will reach 1.4 million metric tons this year, up 40 percent from last year. The adequate level of rice surplus for Korea is 720,000 tons.
Surplus rice has been rising rapidly since 2008 when the figure stood at 680,000 tons. In the following year the figure jumped to 1 million tons.
The rise in rice surplus has been blamed on supply outweighing demand.
This year, the ministry expects rice supply to come in at 6.22 million tons and annual consumption per person at 72.4 kilograms.
Last year the figures stood at 5.79 million tons and 74 kilograms. The figures for 2008 are 5.36 million tons and 75.8 kilograms.
In addition, the government putting a stop to sending rice to North Korea has contributed significantly to the rise.
From 2000 and 2007, South Korea sent nearly 400,000 tons each year to the North, but the project was stopped in 2008.
In addition to helping reduce rice stockpiles, the ministry expects supplying rice as animal feed to bring additional benefits for rice growers.
According to the ministry, rice used to produce animal feed gets 20 won (1.6 cents) to 50 won per kilogram more than that supplied to breweries. In addition, the measure will also help reduce the amount of corn imported to produce animal feed, the ministry said.
As part of its efforts to control the rice surplus, Chang said that the government plans to buy up more farmland next year, and that resuming aid to North Korea should be considered.
"In order to get a hold of the increase in surplus, it is important to reduce the supply by converting farmland to other uses," Chang said.
"The project, introduced this year, purchasing and converting 500 hectares of farmland will be expanded next year."
According to Agriculture Ministry officials, the ministry is buying 500 hectare of farmland with a budget of 75 billion won. Although request for budget to buy the same area of land next year has been submitted, the government plans to purchase about 2,000 hectares next year.