Friday, October 22, 2010

Kim Chee Shortage in Korea

FARM NEWS from Fred Owens

October 22, 2010

Kim Chee is the soul food of South Korea, that fiery concoction made from Napa cabbage and hot peppers, but the crop failed this year because of bad weather, down to half of the usual amount.

Facing a national shortage, the Koreans had to make humble and import cabbage from China, suspending the tariff that usually keeps foreign cabbage out of the country.

This story in the New York Times
describes the national custom -- making Kim Chee at home every autumn as a family ritual, but now it's more often bought at the store because people are too busy.

The New York Times story only stated "crop failure due to bad weather." I wanted to know what kind of bad weather -- too much rain or too little rain are the most common causes of a crop failure. Insect damage, or an epidemic of plant disease are other likely causes.

How can I find out? I don't know any farmers in South Korea.

I went to Google to search. I found many news items reporting the same thing -- a kim chee shortage, but no explanation of why the cabbage crop failed.

I checked out the website for the U.S. Embassy in Korea, and I discovered the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office.

Of course! Our farmers export billions of dollars of fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products to Korea. So naturally we have a trade office there.

(Don't tell the Tea Party about these people -- government employees, waxing fat on our tax dollars, interfering with the free trade of farm products.)

Well, my tax dollars paid for the farm trade office, and I found it useful in providing some statistics.

We export billions of dollars worth of food to Korea -- beef, rice, potatoes, oranges and apples -- everything but cabbage.

I sent an email to the Agricultural Attache Officer in Seoul, and he replied that the crop failure was caused by an excess of rain and a typhoon -- so I had my answer.

One more thing -- we do not export cabbages to Korea, but here in the Skagit Valley we grow most of the cabbage seed that Korean farmers use for their crop.

Pomegranates from Iran. Boy, we're really going to stick it to the Ayatollah now. The market report from our embassy in Korea says:

In the past two years, the U.S has gained a 99 percent market share of imported pomegranates in South Korea due to a devastating freeze and consecutive bad crop years in Iran, Korea’s past top exporter. A great opportunity to secure this market has presented itself as Korean importers prefer the uniformity and consistency of U.S. pomegranates. Pomegranates are increasing in popularity and there is currently not enough supply to meet demand.

So that's the international farm news, here at home:

The Frost Comes. In the Skagit Valley, the hard frost came a few days ago, on a still and cloudless night. The cold sunk in and by early morning the dahlias and zinnias were bejeweled with crystals of frost on their petals - - a beautiful sight, but by noon those same flowers had turned to brown mush, and the floral display is over for this year.

So Much More. I have so much more to write about, but working full time at the farm stand takes up all my energy, and then I'm getting ready to head for California pretty soon.

The farm stand closes October 31, and I leave a few days later.

I kind of miss the scattered and random format of Frog Hospital, but I know it will be good to stick with this more focused effort, so I will continue to write about farming and I hope most of you readers will stick around to see how this develops.

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