(Bloomberg) -- South Korea could be viewed as a favorable ally in Africa as the nation touts its rice growing expertise across a continent dominated by China’s influence, according to the nation’s agriculture and food minister.
Seoul is pledging financial support to African nations that agree to cultivate 150 hectares of rice paddies with South Korean varieties, and 10 countries including Senegal and Kenya have committed to the offer so far, said Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Chung Hwang-keun. He plans to showcase the plan to more leaders from the continent at a summit in South Korea in May.
Top shipper India upended the global rice market recently with restrictions on exports, which are aimed at cooling domestic prices ahead of an election next year. That led to a flurry of supply deals and diplomacy from worried buyers — including Senegal — while China ramped up exports of the grain to some African nations. Rice is vital to the diets of many across the continent.
“In a continent tilted unilaterally toward China, we could be seen very favorably,” Chung said during an interview on Friday. “You gain their trust and business opportunities will naturally follow.”
Chung has toured six African countries since May last year as President Yoon Suk Yeol seeks to step up support for the continent. Seoul has pledged $10 million for each nation supporting the rice plan, which could produce 3 million tons in total within four years, the minister said.
(Update amends number of African countries visited by Chung)
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