Global warming is expected to damage rice production in Korea as increasing areas of the country become suitable for tropical fruit farming.
The Rural Development Administration warned that Korea's rice output will fall to 408.7 kg per 1,000 sq.m in 2040, a 13.6-percent decline compared to 473 kg from 1990 to 2000.
If global warming progresses at the current pace, Korea's rice output could fall 22.2 percent by 2060 and 40.1 percent by 2090, it estimated.
Only tropical rice strains flourish in hot weather, but not the kind Korean consumers prefer. The optimum temperature for the strains most Koreans consume is less than 27 degrees Celsius.
The areas suitable for tropical fruit farming are spreading northward. The cities of Daegu and Busan as well as South Jeolla and Chungcheong provinces produced no tropical fruit until 2014. But last year orchards began producing tropical fruit for the first time ever.
According to the Korea Rural Economic Institute, the total area in the nation that grew tropical fruit stood at 1.07 million sq.m consisting of 264 farms last year, a whopping 83.7 percent rise in the total area and a 51.7 percent increase in farms growing tropical fruit compared to 2014. Last year, Korea produced 1,174 tons of tropical fruit, up 52.5 percent compared to 2014.
North Gyeongsang Province has traditionally been an apple-growing region, accounting for 62 percent of total output of the fruit in Korea. But by 2090 apples are expected to disappear from the province.
Apple-growing regions have already crept northward up to mountainous Gangwon Province, which now focuses on apples and grapes due to changing climatic patterns. Even peaches are being grown in Gangwon Province now.
A growing number of farms on the southern resort island of Jeju are apparently switching from tangerines to other crops, and by 2070 the traditional tangerine-growing region is expected to shift to Gangwon Province as well.
Although tropical fruit output is rising, farmers need to think twice before they switch.
The National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, which is affiliated with the RDA, said bananas and pineapples grown in Korea are often edged out by cheaper imports. It advised farmers to prepare thoroughly before switching to tropical fruit since it takes between three to four years until the first harvest.