Gangwon-do potatoes the consumer bought shows the high-quality of good consumption prouct.
/Photography from Yu Kyeong-mi
“I bought a bunch of flowers by just paying 2,500 won for the cost of delivery.” From April 29th to May 5th, Public Home Shopping, one of the major home shopping companies, hosted a special edition sale called “Let’s buy together,” which has a similar pronunciation with “Let’s live together,” in Korean, with the Ministry of SMEs and Startups(MSS), Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs(MAFRA) and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries(MOF). The purpose of this sale was to promote the consumption of merchandise from small businesses and the agricultural, livestock and fishery industries, which are experiencing poor sales since exports and sales channels were restricted due to COVID-19. While struggling together with the Novel Coronavirus, “good consumption,” a way of helping salespeople and the domestic economy by spending, arose. Then, what is good consumption, and what effects does the good consumption have in this crisis?
Fair trade is an example of good consumption
Good consumption, also called as ethical consumption, is an act of purchasing goods and services, while considering the outcomes that the consumption might affect environment and society. This term was first popularized through the British magazine “Good Consumer” in 1989. “Good Consumer” was published to report issues and information on the social, ethical and environmental behavior of companies, based on its mission statement, “making global businesses more sustainable.” At that time, as industrialization rapidly progressed, the need for sustainable development through ethical consumption was raised as a solution for the problems of workers’ rights and environmental pollution. Fair trade coffee, one of the examples of good consumption, gives financial aid to laborers who are working on coffee plantations by paying a fair price through a direct deal with the coffee producers.
As the Novel Coronavirus continues to spread around the world, the market economy is in danger. In February, the rate of increase in export expanded 4.5 percent year-on-year, resulting in a positive transition in 15 months. However, the average record of exports was 18.3 billion dollars, which was 2.5 billion dollars less than 20.8 billion dollars a year earlier. Business Survey Index(BSI), the prospect of domestic export enterprises, showed a falling of about 85%P in March’s forecast, consequently suffering a slump in export. Also, social distancing, which restricts people’s movement, reduces consumers’ consumption, and the decline of consumption directly inflicts economic damage on domestic businesses. Above all, the agricultural product market suffered the trouble of stock handling and economic instability. Therefore, to resolve these difficulties that the domestic agricultural markets are facing, a good consumption campaign began in Korea. Rhee Kyoung-won, a professor of the Department of Economics, said, “As our economy is facing a difficulty, the government should intervene to solve the problem. I think that government as a middleman promoting good consumption is a way to overcome difficulties.”
Good consumption helps cultivators who are suffering inventory problem
Gangwon-do previously planned to export 45 tons of potatoes as the production of potato increased thanks to the successful harvest. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 blocked the export channel. If the volume supposed to be exported enters the domestic market, there will be a risk of price slump and the difficulty of stock disposal. On March 11th, Choi Moon-soon, the governor of Gangwon-do, posted an advertisement for potato selling using Twitter, and it spread quickly through people as a trend called “Buying Gangwon-do potato.” The price of potatoes was 5,000 won per 10kg, which was about 50 percent cheaper than the market price. During the two weeks of March, the amount of potatoes sold online was about 2,060 tons. This helped to relieve the worries of farmers. After the successful sale of potatoes, various products such as asparagus and cuttlefish were all sold out, which made the campaign get more attention and receive a positive response.
Flowering plant farmers were undergoing the same difficulty of sales shortages as well. This is because exports were restricted by COVID-19, and collective events such as graduation and entrance ceremonies were cancelled due to the intensive social distancing. To help farmers, movements like “Flower bucket campaign,” “Buying flowers of love” emerged, and many institutions participated in this movement. Flea markets, where people can buy floral products consisting of diverse flowers with a low price, were also held and they helped people buy flowers easily. In particular, during May, Seoul city was trying to help flower planting farmers and create jobs for the young by holding a flower consumption promotion event in trucks. Shin, a florist running a flower shop named “Songsong flower,” said, “Due to the cancellation of major events such as graduations and entrance ceremonies, the flowers were in danger of being entirely disposed as they were not sold. There was a lot of damage because the next farming depended on profits from sales. However, the government, media and citizens recognized the stock problems of farming and helped us by consuming our products. I really appreciate the people who participated in the social movement to help farmers since I can ease my anxiety of inventory problems.”
Good consumption has advantages both in personal and social terms
By practicing good consumption, people can buy high-quality products at a low cost. Jincheon-gun sold an agricultural pack for 20,000 won using their official online shopping site “Jincheon mall.” Commodities produced locally and composed of fresh agricultural products received favorable reactions from consumers since they were 20 percent cheaper than the market price and were free of delivery charge. The fact that consumers could get fresh products at less expense through good consumption led to a gradual increase in the participation rate.
Easy purchasing methods also contributed to the advantage of good consumption that consumers could appreciate. As good consumption sales are usually hosted in online shopping, it is more convenient for consumers who are keeping social distances to pay for the product. A drive-through model was also adopted to carry out non-contact sales. The drive-through market, held in Yongin, was proceeded by making the order, paying for it and then loading the ordered product. This entire process was done in the customer’s car.
As such, due to the advantage of being able to purchase goods at a low price while avoiding unnecessary contact, products including mushrooms, vegetable, flowers and others were all sold out. Yu Kyeong-mi, a resident of Gyeonggi-do, said, “By just tapping my phone, I could easily buy potatoes cultivated in Gangwon-do. At first, I was concerned about the quality of the product because I thought they were selling low-quality products to solve the stock problem. However, the delivery was fast and I was satisfied with the high quality. I will continually buy products from good consumption campaign.”
Just as good consumption has a positive effect on individuals, it is meaningful in terms of society as well. It can be a solution for sales reduction, caused by export problems and the suspension of school meals due to the postponement of school opening. During the new purchasing culture, the consumer market, which had been frozen formerly, could find some vitality. Consumers who received a support fund from the government could use it in a market where “good consumption” products are on sale. Therefore, it increases demand, and at the same time, gives financial assistance to agricultural farmers.
The promotion of solidarity is another advantage found in good consumption. As it is a relay event that can be easily followed by purchasing goods, the awareness that consumers are participating in the relay can make them feel a sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, good consumption can be a willingness and motivation to overcome the crisis because buyers and sellers get to cooperate together.
The Novel Coronavirus affected the cultivation business, especially agriculture. However, good consumption that can benefit everyone is helping the society to overcome the crisis and is likely to expand further in the future. Professor Rhee said, “Good consumption is a effective way to help cultivators and seek cooperation inside the society which is a key point of overcoming the crisis. To solve the economic problems due to the COVID-19, we should extend good consumptions and the government should also invent a measure to help intermediate distributors.”
Lee Jae-eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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