"Free onions for customers."
The banner will be hung over at the front gate of Hyundai Department stores on Thursday. The department plans to provide one bag of onions (approximately 1.2 kilogram) per visiting customer. This free handout of onions will take place at all 13 branches as a campaign to promote consumption of onions, while its Ulsan branch will hold the event on Saturday. The amount of onions for free dole out is whopping 130 tons, meaning 1.2 kilogram each for some 108,000 customers. Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp.s statistics show that the average wholesale price of onion is 440 won per kilogram as of Friday, dropped by 15 percent from the previous month and decreased by 44 percent year-one-year.
Against this backdrop, agricultural distribution businesses, the central government and local governments are leading various campaigns to promote onion consumptions. Shinsegae Department Store started selling "Onion Juice" at all stores from last month. This product is made of onions (20 tons) procured from Hampyeong in South Jeolla Province. Seoul Dairy Cooperative and National Agricultural Cooperative Federation recently had a sales event to sell a 1.5-kg bag of onions at a price discounted by 1,000 won from the current market prices. CJ Cheil Jedang Co. also had onion consumption promotion campaign from Monday through Friday last week with its "Sweet Onion Sauce," made of the first onion product of the year fermented with sugar and oligosaccharide. Hyundai Green Food, a subsidiary of Hyundai Department Store, is scheduled to export 800 tons of onions procured from the local farms to Taiwan.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of Korea sets 27th of every month as "Onion Sales Day" and hosts farmers markets for direct sales of onions across the country. The root cause behind sudden fall of onion prices is oversupply due to increased onion cultivation areas. According to the Korea Rural Economic Institute, the onion cultivation areas in Korea is now the biggest on record of 23,908 hectares, expanded by 13 percent from the average of 20,036 hectares. The onion production volume has reached 1,487,000 tons, which is a record high since 2011.
The onion prices are expected to be stabilized after September when the amount of onions that are not in the storages but stacked in the field or on the waysides is all consumed, said Guk Seung-yong, head of Agricultural Outlook Center at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.