Lee to Seek Steady Grain Supply From Overseas

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Korea Times | 04-16-2008

By Kim Yon-se, Michael Ha
Korea Times Correspondent, Staff Reporter

NEW YORK ? President Lee Myung-bak expressed concern for spiking grain prices around the world and said his administration will try to secure a steady and reliable grain supply from overseas for Korea.

In a meeting with Cabinet ministers and presidential aides on his flight to the United States, Lee specifically expressed his concern that rising costs for grain and livestock feed could pose challenges in sending humanitarian aid to North Korea.

He said that eventually Korea should be prepared to feed 70 million people in a unified Korean nation.

Lee said that taking measures to secure a reliable supply of food from overseas on a long-term basis may be what's needed to reach that goal.

He told his aides that one possible way to secure grain supplies from overseas would be to sign a long-term land lease. The President specifically pointed to the Russian Far East.

Lee said his administration could, for example, look into signing a 30-to-50-year land lease on the Russian territory specifically for growing crops.

He said signing a land lease there would have a number of benefits. ``North Korean workers could be employed to farm the land and grains harvested could be used as humanitarian aid to North Korea.''

Another possible candidate for a long-term land lease, according to President Lee, is Southeast Asia, where multi-crop farming all year round is a common practice.

Korea may be able to use the land for the production of rice and other grains as well as livestock feed, he said.

President Lee indicated that he could ask the private sector to help carry out this initiative. He said that while the government would be in charge of finding and securing the land overseas, he would likely rely on private companies to do the actual farming.

The global price for rice is currently at a record level, while prices for wheat, corn and soybeans have also been rising this year.

According to reports, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon remarked at a World Bank meeting over the past weekend that soaring food prices around the world have reached ``emergency proportions.''

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that currently, 37 nations around the world are facing a ``food crisis.''

Original source: Korea Times
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