A Kimchi Shortage Is Hitting South Korea

Extreme weather has caused cabbage prices to skyrocket as people prepare for the annual fermentation tradition.

South Korea is facing a culinary disaster this fall: Extreme weather has wiped out swaths of cabbage, creating a massive shortage right before gimjang season—the country’s annual kimchi-making period.

This year, South Korea faced an abnormally long rainy season, as well as three typhoons, which damaged large amounts of the cabbage crop, causing prices to quadruple, according to the Los Angeles Times. Typically, South Koreans would use the abundance of cabbage available during harvest time to preserve and ferment a stockpile of kimchi for the coming months and year, but this year supplies are short and prices, when available, are ridiculously high.

Glass of homemade Korean Kimchi with chinese cabbage, scallions and carrots
Westend61/Getty Images

“Cabbage prices are going nuts,” one home kimchi maker told Bloomberg. “I had to rub my eyes to see the price tag again because it didn’t make any sense.”

The South Korean government has stepped in to deal with the situation. The LA Times wrote that, earlier this month, officials in Seoul created a “kimchi bailout program,” covering 30 percent of the cost of about 300,000 heads of cabbage to help ease prices for city shoppers while also supporting rural farmers. Meanwhile, federal leaders reportedly cut tariffs on imports from China so that this cabbage—though less coveted than the local Korean variety—could fill some of the demand.

Still, Bloomberg explains that South Korea’s top kimchi producer has had to stop online sales, and another major food brand was still looking for alternate cabbage supplies to fill its needs. Kim Dajung, a research fellow at the Korea Rural Economic Institute, told Bloomberg that the worries will likely continue in the short-term. “Cabbage in particular is quite sensitive to climate change and any sort of extreme weather will be detrimental to its output,” Kim said. “While prices are starting to stabilize, uncertainties over price will continue to persist until the gimjang season begins in mid-November.”

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