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Food prices feared to spike following typhoon
SEOUL, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- Prices of vegetables, fruits and other agricultural products are likely to surge as powerful Typhoon Bolaven reduces the harvest of farm produce, officials said Tuesday.

   Bolaven, the strongest typhoon in almost a decade, hit the western part of the country, bringing fierce winds and high waves earlier in the day, destroying hundreds of orchards in South Korea and leading to premature fruit drops.

   "It is difficult to estimate the damage at the moment," said an official at the agriculture ministry. "Prices of fruits and vegetables are hit hardest among others, and the harvests are likely to drop."

   Prices of vegetables and other fresh foods in South Korea were already high in the wake of unusual heat waves that hit the country late last month.

   Global prices of agricultural products, especially corn and wheat, also soared recently due to reduced harvests in the U.S. and other countries following severe droughts in their major farming areas.

   South Korea depends heavily on imports for its corn and wheat, which is raising concerns the price hikes in global markets could lead to food price increases in the domestic market.

   Food prices are likely to increase further in the run-up to Chuseok, one of the nation's biggest traditional holidays, as demand for food will grow as people prepare special foods and buy presents for friends and relatives, officials said. Chuseok falls on Sept. 29 this year.

   South Korea's consumer prices grew 1.5 percent in July, their slowest pace in 12 years, as the slowing global economy drove down costs of crude oil and other products by cutting overall demand.

   July's reading marks the slowest growth since May 2000 when consumer prices gained 1.1 percent. It also marks the first time in three years that inflation has fallen into the 1-percent range.