Cabbage Shortage Threatens South Korea’s Kimchi-Making Season - Modern Farmer

Cabbage Shortage Threatens South Korea’s Kimchi-Making Season

Fresh food prices have risen across the country after three typhoons ravaged fields this summer.

South Korean kimchi is made with napa cabbage.
Photography Nyker on Shutterstock

A typhoon-ridden summer is having long-term effects on the Korean peninsula, but not necessarily in the ways you might expect.

Destroyed cabbage fields, reports Bloomberg, have driven up prices to significant highs. And that couldn’t come at a worse time. With cold winters, South Korea has an incredibly deep culture of fermentation and preservation. In November, families traditionally make kimchi, the iconic fermented dish, to eat throughout the winter. It’s not just a habit; UNESCO recognized that tradition, which in Korean is called gimjang, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

But that report indicates that this season may be an expensive and difficult one for kimchi-making. Most, though certainly not all, South Korean kimchi is made with napa cabbage, and South Korea is a significant producer of the vegetable. A series of three typhoons, all hitting South Korea within a few weeks, was destructive to the South Korean cabbage crop. That many typhoons, including a rare Category 2 typhoon, is unusual for the Korean Peninsula, even during the typhoon season.

Kimchi manufacturers have also noted the disturbance in the supply chain, with the country’s top kimchi producer pausing online orders due to the shortage.

In previous years with shortages in South Korean cabbage supply, producers have purchased more napa cabbage from China, the world’s largest grower of that particular brassica. The South Korean government has also previously paused protective tariffs on Chinese napa cabbage, in efforts to keep the supply stable.

Prices of fresh food in general have been high since the typhoon-ridden summer, writes Heesu Lee at Bloomberg. South Koreans on Twitter have noted the high prices of cabbage and other staples, which have risen significantly.

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