US hails $110 mn rice export agreement with S.Korea

South Korean conservative activists roll a large balloon showing the US flags by a South Korean flag during a rally to support South Korea-US free trade agreement in Seoul in 2012 (AFP Photo/JUNG YEON-JE)

Washington (AFP) - South Korea has agreed to buy more than $100 million in annual US rice exports, US officials said Tuesday.

Under the agreement, South Korea will provide access for 132,304 tons of American-produced rice a year at an annual value of about $110 million, the US Trade Representative's office said in a statement.

"Exports are critical for the economic health of the US rice industry, with half our crop being exported every year," US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in the statement.

Following negotiations, Seoul has adopted tariff-rate import quotas for about 400,000 tons of rice from the United States, Australia, China and Thailand.

According to the US Trade Representative's office, South Korea has allotted about a third of this to American growers, the highest volume of US access ever.

Under the World Trade Organization, South Korea had enjoyed special treatment for rice market access until this expired in 2014, when negotiations started.

The new agreement is to take effect in January.