With FTA Ink Still Drying, Cow Farmers Feel Change Already

SOUTH KOREA - As South Korea agreed with U.S. demands to phase out tariffs on imported beef in a free trade agreement signed earlier this month, local farmers are already feeling the impact on their livelihood even before the trade deal goes into effect.
calendar icon 11 April 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
A cowshed of Sim Seong-gu
Sim Seong-gu, a 51-year-old farmer, runs a ranch in Hongseong, South Chungcheong Province, where he grows 120 cows. These days, he hardly smiles. Morning greetings with his neighbors have been replaced by such words as, "What's new now?" as he feels concerned about sharp falling price of cattle and what impact the market opening to U.S. beef will have on his livelihood.

"I have always been worried, but didn't expect it to come so soon," Sim said. "There is no light at the end of the tunnel."

Sim started to raise cows in 1984, when he bought his first heifer. His cows were of high quality, and were healthy enough to remain unafflicted in the midst of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak which swept the local farming industry in 2000.

Sim's cows were sold at high prices until recently. Last autumn, an 800-kilogram gelded ox was sold for 8.24 million won (US$8,800). A four-month-old female calf was sold for 3.2 million won.

But things turned bad for Sim after South Korea and the U.S. signed the FTA earlier this month, and the price of cattle started to plunge. On April 7, a gelded ox was traded for 8,700 won per kilogram and a female calf was sold for under 2.3 million won.

"Ten years ago, I could get enough money to buy 1,500 pyeong of land if I sold four heifers for 1 million won each. But now I need to sell at least 30 cows to buy the same area of land," Sim said. (One pyeong equals 3.3 square meters.) "Even though the price of land has kept going up since then, the price of cattle has risen relatively little during the same period," he added. 

Source: The Hankyoreh
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