In its latest move to help lower food prices and ease inflationary pressure, South Korea will expand the amount of imported pork subject to its tariff quota system, according to Yonhap news agency. The announcement was made Friday by a South Korean senior finance ministry official.

"We will expand the amount of imported pork, and powdered milk, subject to the tariff quota system in order to remove market anxiety caused by recent price instability," Vice Finance Minister Yim Jong-yong said at a meeting with senior economic policymakers.

A tariff quota is a quantitative threshold on imports, above which a higher tariff is applied. The lower tariff rate applies to imports within the quota, allowing policymakers to adjust duties on specified merchandise to help control inflationary pressure.

The move comes as policymakers are pushing to preemptively tame inflation amid concerns over rising food and other commodity prices.

Since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the country, South Korea has culled some 3 million pigs, or about one-third of the country's herd. Last month, a tariff quota was imposed on a total of 60,000 tons of pork, cutting import taxes from 25 percent to zero until June.

Yim said the government will also add new items subject to the system from the current 67 by closely monitoring market prices of consumer goods.

South Korea's consumer prices jumped 4.1 percent last month from a year earlier mostly due to steep price increases of oil and agricultural products. The government is attempting to keep inflation at around 3 percent this year.

"Things will be tough during the first quarter, and the government thinks that it won't be easy to keep prices under control," Yim said. "But we believe that inflation can be maintained at 3 percent this year if prices stabilize from the supply side starting from the second quarter."

Source: Yonhap news agency