DPRK increases grain imports from China

According to Yonhap:

North Korea imported nearly three times as much grain from China in August as last year, an expert said Thursday, an unusual increase that may suggest food shortages in the impoverished nation have worsened.

The North purchased 47,978 tons of corn, flour and rice in August, up from 16,723 tons in the same period of last year, said Kwon Tae-jin, a North Korea expert at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

“It is unusual that the North increased grain imports sharply in August ahead of the harvest season in fall,” Kwon said. “It is believed that the North increased imports as its grain stock is falling low.”

The North imported 216,535 tons of grain from China in the first eight months, a rise of 20 percent compared to the same period last year.

China is the North’s key ally, economic benefactor and diplomatic supporter.

North Korea suffered devastating floods in recent months that washed away tens of thousands of hectares of farmland, damage that is feared to threaten its already fragile food situation.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s when it suffered a massive famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.

Back in June 2011, Yonhap reported:

North Korea imported more than 50,000 tons of grains from its key ally China in May, an expert said Thursday, amid chronic food shortages in the North.

The North purchased 50,328 tons of corn, flour and rice in May, up 31.5 percent compared to the same period last year, said Kwon Tae-jin, a North Korea expert at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

The North also imported 114,300 tons of fertilizer from China in the first five months, a rise of 39 percent compared to the same period last year, Kwon said, citing figures from Seoul’s Korea International Trade Association.

China is the North’s last remaining ally, key economic benefactor and diplomatic supporter.

In March, the U.N. food agency appealed for 430,000 tons of food aid to feed 6 million vulnerable North Korean people, a quarter of the country’s population.

Washington sent its delegation to North Korea in May to assess the food situation, though no decision on food aid has been made yet.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s when it suffered a massive famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.

However, the outside aid has dwindled following the North’s missile and nuclear tests and other provocations.

There are basically two conflicting narratives being played out in the media in regards to this kind of news. The first narrative is that heavy seasonal floods and typhoon damage wiped out a large percentage of North Korea’s fall harvest and they are in desperate need of food assistance. The second narrative is that the DPRK is boosting food stocks in advance of 2012, the year the country is supposed to transition into a “Strong and Prosperous Country” (according to official propaganda). Since the DPRK’s appeal for large-scale food aid has gone largely ignored by the international community (despite the best efforts of organizations like the UNWFP and charities like Samaritan’s Purse), the country is forced to increase food stocks through international trade if it wants to live up to the expectations it has created among the domestic population. ┬áMeeting these expectations is especially important right now as they will play an important role in facilitating the leadership ┬átransition to Kim Jong-il’s designated successor, Kim Jong-un.

I have been posting stories about this year’s food shortage here (though neglected for a couple of weeks).

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea’s grain imports from China increase threefold
Yonhap
2011-9-29

N. Korea increases grain imports from China
Yonhap
2011-6-30

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