When the grip of summer loosens and the air turns cooler, Koreans pay particular attention to the price trends of two specific fruits -- apples and pears.
At their freshest and most flavorful during this time, the two fruits are the quintessential autumn fruits in South Korea, but there are a few other reasons why people are particularly sensitive to their prices.
A time-honored tradition during Chuseok, one of the two biggest traditional holidays here, is to prepare a table full of food offerings to honor one’s ancestors. Apples and pears are a staple on this ceremonial table. Furthermore, they are also the two most common fruits gifted during the Chuseok holidays. Usually, Chuseok gift packages are prepared and delivered a week or two before the actual holiday begins.
However, Chuseok's varying dates each year, falling somewhere between late September and early October and determined by the lunar calendar, pose challenges.
This timing, in conjunction with the year's weather conditions and harvest outlook, can sometimes lead to a mismatch between the fruit harvest and peak demand.
This year, the price of apples are some 50 percent higher than the same period last year, dampening the mood of those who sought to make a hearty table for their ancestors.
Struggle for price stabilization
This year’s apple and pear production was heavily influenced by the long monsoon, heat wave seasons and a typhoon, experts said.
Typhoon Khanun ripped through the Korean Peninsula in early August and resulted in a total of 361 cases of facility and flooding damages. The typhoon was a key reason behind the higher apple and overall fruit prices this year, according to a state-affiliated institute.
“The typhoon in August has led to an overall surge in price of apples due to its lack of supply,” the latest report released by Korea Rural Economic Institute said.
KREI forecast the wholesale price of apples per 10 kilograms in September to jump a maximum 160.6 percent on-year to an average 74,000 won ($55.72).
“The fruiting of the apples were lackluster this year as well due to an elongated monsoon season in July coupled with damages from hails and frostings during its fruiting season,” it added.