South Korea

Cabbage prices double as kimchi crisis hits South Korea

South Koreans, who eat traditional spicy dishes on average seven times a week, are facing the worst kimchi crisis in modern history.

Kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and Korean radish, is a staple in Korean cuisine and eaten as a side dish in almost every Korean meal.

Now South Korean residents, whose appetite for the dish is legendary, eating the spicy dish an average of seven times a week, are facing the worst kimchi crisis in modern history.

The cost of kimchi has soared, with consumer prices for Napa cabbage soaring to 11,200 won ($7.81) this month, compared with an annual average of about 5,960 won ($4.17), as extreme heat, rain and floods devastated the country’s Most regional cabbage crops, pickles are much more expensive to make and increasingly difficult to buy.

The price of daikon radish, used in another popular kimchi, has also soared 146% over the past year to more than 2,850 won ($2.00).

Now, South Koreans, already suffering from historically high inflation, are about to enter the traditional kimchi-making season in November, when families typically stock up on pickled vegetables for winter.

But this year, the high cost of basic ingredients has made making homemade kimchi quite difficult and expensive.

Many South Korean consumers now jokingly refer to kimchi as “geumchi,” implying that it’s worth as much as gold.

As the cost of making the iconic staple at home soars, South Koreans are eagerly seeking out factory-grown kimchi.

However, shipments of the product to food stores have been reduced by about 50 per cent from normal levels and the online store supply has “completely disappeared”.

Major kimchi makers such as Daesang and CheilJedang have announced a 10-11% hike in their prices, saying further hikes are likely to follow.

Food prices in South Korea have risen sharply this year, rising 8 percent year-on-year for two consecutive months.

Prices of some popular staples have risen faster.

The price of fried chicken rose 11.4% year-on-year in July.

The average price of kimbap wrapped in seaweed paper rose 11.5 percent, breaking through 3,000 won ($2.10) for the first time. A few years ago, some restaurants in Seoul sold kimbap for as little as 1,000 won ($0.70).

A bowl of jajangmyeon or black bean noodles now costs an average of 6,300 won ($4.41), up 15.3 percent year-on-year.

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