DPRK responds to drought: 2014

UPDATE 5 (2015-7-10): According to IFES:

Despite Drought Last Year, Food Production Increased Due to Field Responsibility System

North Korea experienced its biggest drought in 100 years last year. However, North Korea claims that this did not affect its food production. North Korean authorities are claiming the main factor behind the increased food production is the will of farmers to produce more after the expansion of the “field management system,” or pojon tamdangje.

In an interview with the weekly newspaper, Tongil Sinbo, Chi Myong Su, director of the Agricultural Research Institute of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the DPRK commented, “the effectiveness of field management system (pojon) from cooperative farm production unit system (bunjo) is noticeable and succeeded in increasing grain production despite the adverse weather conditions.”

The field management system under the bunjo management system or the subworkteam management system divides the work unit consisting of 10-25 people into smaller units of 3-5 people, responsible for farming a smaller unit of a field. This is a measure to increase the “responsibility and ownership of farmers.”

From the July 1st Economic Management Improvement Measures enforced in 2002, the autonomy of cooperative farms and enterprises expanded. The “field management system” was piloted from early 2004 in Suan, North Hwanghae Province and Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, but was suspended soon afterward. However, this system is reported to have been implemented widely after the first National Conference of Subworkteam Leaders in the Agricultural Sector was held in Pyongyang in February 2014.

Economic principles behind the field responsibility system are stated as, “under the sub-work team structure, a smaller subworkteam consisting of 2 to 3 families or 3 to 4 people depending on the scale and means of production, is responsible for a specific field or plot (pojon) from planting to harvest stage to inspire farmers with enthusiasm for production by distributing the shares of production in accordance with the output of production planning.”

The newspaper added, “Despite the adverse weather conditions last year, the high grain yield was possible due to implementation of scientific farming methods and field management system to increase enthusiasm of farmers,” and “based on this experience, many cooperative farms across the country will expand subworkteam management system to field management system.”

Director Chi stated, “Since the field management system was implemented, farmers’ labor capacity increased to 95 percent. The planting time for corn and rice that took 20 to 30 days in the past is shortened to 10 to 15 days. In the autumn season, grain threshing that took 50 days is now only taking 10 days. This is changing the farming landscape.”

In addition, the distribution shares for farmers increased as well as the state’s procurement last year. This is attributed to “socialist distribution principles that distributed grains produced to farmers in-kind based on their efforts after excluding a specified amount of grain procured by the state.”

He added, “There are quite a number of farming households that received several decades worth of distribution after a year of farming. There is an increasing number of families with growing patriotism to increase the amount of grain procurement to the state.”

UPDATE 4 (2015-2-6): Media sources report that North Korea experienced a surprisingly good harvest in 2014.

According to the Voice of America:

The GS&J Institute released a report based on statistics from the U.N.’s World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization. Dr. Gwon Tae-jin, who spearheaded the research, wrote that the North harvested 4.98 million tons of crops in 2014.

The FAO recently announced that the North harvested about 5.94 million tons of raw crops last year. The figure from the GS&J Institute is based on how much would be left after processing the raw crops for consumption.

Gwon explained that while the figure is lower than the previous estimate because of the drought in spring, the autumn harvest made up for the lackluster yield earlier in the year.

The report indicated North Korea’s crop harvest plunged from 4.05 million tons in 1995 to 2.57 million tons in 2001. However, the food security situation has improved since 2004, staying around 4 million tons in most years.

In 2011, the figure rose to 4.22 million tons, and when Kim Jong Un became the country’s leader in 2012, it rose to 4.45 million tons. The next year, it was 4.84 million tons.

Gwon said Pyongyang’s efforts to draw manpower to farming and prioritize the distribution of fertilizer and other materials for agriculture is the main reason behind the hike in crop harvest. He added that the new policy of letting farmers freely use a certain percentage of the harvest had also helped the productivity.

In a telephone interview with VOA, Gwon said, “North Korea, which overcame difficulty with international aid in the early 2000s, is now in the process of overcoming another difficulty through its own efforts, rather than aid.”

Despite the slight improvement, however, the North Korean government is not able to meet the minimum needed for food security.

In 2007, when the crop yield was low, Pyongyang was able to feed its people through imports and international aid. From 2008 on, the country has experienced food shortages because of a decline in international aid.

The latest report forecast crop distribution in the North to be lacking by some 80,000 tons, when totaling its crop harvest, imports and international aid.

I have not been able to locate the original UN or GS&J reports (VOA-you should site your statistics, or even better, link to them).

The increase in agricultural production occurred at the same time as a nation-wide drought. Could this be the effectiveness of the 6.28 Measures?

Read the full story here:
Report: N. Korea’s 2014 Harvest Best Since Mid-’90s
Voice of America
2015-2-6

UPDATE 3 (2014-12-20): According to the Pyongyang Times:

Nation set to secure enough water for farming

A long spell of severe drought that hit the country this year lowered the water level of reservoirs and reduced water sources for farming.

As part of the ongoing nationwide drive to meet the challenge and secure enough water for farming next year, cooperative farms in North Phyongan and South Hwanghae provinces are stepping up the repair and construction of reservoirs and waterways and their extension.

North Phyongan Province is focusing on the construction of reservoirs together with the reconstruction of Paengma-Cholsan and Amnokgang waterways.

Builders engaged in the reconstruction of Paengma-Cholsan and other waterways already rebuilt the waterway section in charge and are now laying stones over the surface of the banks.

The province is now carrying on the plans to build the reservoir at the Osong Cooperative Farm in Jongju till April and Hwangpho reservoir in Kwaksan County till June next year.

At the same time, it pushes ahead with the repair of 202 dams, about 600 pools, over 1 000 wells, some 90 tube wells and underground reservoirs to collect as much water as possible for the next year’s farming.

North Hwanghae Province is concentrating on the building of pumping stations to do safe farming by pumping up water from the Taedong River together with that of reservoirs.

After setting an ambitious goal to repair dozens of reservoirs, build dozens of more reservoirs, build and extend hundreds of kilometres of more waterways and construct more wells, tube wells and pumping stations on two stages till March next year, it is pushing forward with them in a planned manner.

Builders of Wangdang Reservoir No. 2 in Singye County are building earth dams successfully.

Songnim City is undertaking a project to draw water from the Taedong River into Inpho, Chongun and other ris. Notable achievements have been made in the building of foundations and waterways in a few days since it began.

The construction of pumping stations and waterways is under way in Hwangju County to draw water from the Taedong River into hundreds of hectares of paddy and dry fields of the Sunchon Cooperative Farm which was severely hit by drought this year and in Sariwon to use water of the Jaeryong River on the Migok Cooperative Farm.

UPDATE 2 (2014-11-7): According to the Daily NK:

Market rice prices have been dropping dramatically in recent days, the Daily NK has learned. Given reports of an unfavorable harvest due an absence of fertilizer and drought conditions early in the season, the news has come as a surprise to many residents. In turn, this has led to customary bouts of speculation and rumor.

“The price of rice has plunged to 4,500 KPW [0.54 USD] per kg in the markets,” a source in Pyongyang told the Daily NK on Thursday. “The harvest is underway and freshly harvested rice is pushing down prices.”

“This year, not only collective farms but also individuals planted a lot of rice,” he elaborated. “It seems like the rice from these private plots is now in the marketplace.”

As of mid-October, a kilo of rice was fetching 6,800 KPW [0.82 USD] in public markets, according to research conducted by the Daily NK in locations across North Korea. Later in the month it fell to 5,000 KPW [0.60 USD], and has now reached the 4,500 KPW [0.54 USD] mark.

“Rice is going for roughly 4,800 KPW [1.80 USD], and the price here continues to fall,” a source based in the isolated border city of Hyesan said. “People have been saying the harvest this year has not been that good, but there’s definitely a lot of rice in the markets now.”

The going rate for corn has also fallen in Hyesan, the source explained, dipping to 1,700 KPW [0.20 USD] in early September. The price of corn usually tracks that of rice.

Meanwhile, in Pyongyang residents eager to determine the cause of the sudden drop have been speculating “that rice from Russia has been brought in,” the source revealed. There have even been hard numbers floated in reference to the rumor. To wit, “The state requested 5,000 tons because of the bad harvest.”

The source in Hyesan explained that, as usual, “grain units” have been officially dispatched to oversee the distribution of the harvested rice, but that bribes are sufficient to keep them from regulating rice sold in markets.

The term “grain unit” refers to 20-30 members of the Worker and Peasant Red Guards, one of North Korea’s large reserve military forces consisting of men between the ages of 17 and 60 and some unmarried women, who set up checkpoints along main transportation routes in order to govern the movement of rice and corn harvested on collective farms and individual farm plots. However, this type of monitoring has long been an ineffective formality due to the prevalence of corruption.

Despite the brief spike surmised to stem from these factors, the fall in rice prices is not expected to last long. “There may be a lot of rice in the markets, but the harvest was bad so the supply will gradually decrease,” the source predicted. “Unless the state actively engages with the issue, prices will gradually climb back up to last month’s level.”

There is also the likelihood that vendors with rice in stock may decide not to bring out their supplies if the price stays low, hoping to stick it out and reap higher profits later. According to the source, “If this were to continue, the prices would continue to climb, potentially making things difficult for residents.”

Rice prices in the North tend to be affected by fluctuations in exchange rates, but more recently they have moved seemingly without regard for currency prices. Currently in Yangkang Province, 1 RMB [0.16 USD] trades for 1,350 KPW, a 50 KPW increase from September, yet the price of rice has actually fallen.

Read teh full story here:
Surprise Rice Price Fall on Harvest News
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong
2014-11-7

UPDATE 1 (2014-10-12):  According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s rice production this year is expected to be about the same as last year, a U.N. report said Sunday, reinforcing forecasts that grain production will not fall despite a severe drought in the country.

Rice production this year is estimated at 1.9 million tons, the same level as last year, while maize and pork production are expected to increase slightly to 2.3 million and 114,000 tons, respectively, according to the October edition of Food Outlook, a biannual publication of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In May, the FAO estimated the same production levels for North Korea, with the exception of pork, which was forecast at 113,000 tons.

With this year’s rice production, each North Korean is expected to eat 67.8 kilograms of rice between this fall and next summer, according to the report.

North Korea has long been a recipient of international food aid due to shortages caused by droughts, flooding and poor economic management.

However, the FAO representative in North Korea recently said in an interview that the country is projected to produce 6 million tons of grain this year and attain self-sufficiency in food within three to four years.

You can download the UNFAO report here (PDF).

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s rice production to remain at same level as last year: U.N. report
Yonhap
2014-10-12

ORIGINAL POST (2014-7-25): According to the Daily NK:

Market rice prices in North Korea held steady throughout the “farming hardship period” in April and May; however, prices have recently started to rise. In towns near the border, including those in the provinces of Yangkang and North Hamkyung, rice has reached 6,000 KPW per kilo, inside sources report.

“From the end of last week, the cost of rice began to rise, reaching 6,000 KPW,” a source in North Hamkyung Province reported to Daily NK on the 25th. “All five of the markets in Hyesan, including Yunbong, Masan and Hyesan, have seen the same sudden leap.”

“People are used to small fluctuations in rice prices, but they don’t often see a quick 1,000 KPW increase,” she went on.

A source in Yangkang Province confirmed the increase. “Just a few days ago, rice was 5,000 KPW, so imagine my surprise when I went to buy it yesterday,” she said. “It seems that even the sellers don’t know why it happened.”

“They don’t need to be sure why prices have risen; simply, if one raises the price of her rice, the rest will follow suit,” she added.

The source went on to say that she examined conditions across the city on Daily NK’s behalf, checking markets in areas that could have been in a different condition. “Because miners are receiving their rations, I thought maybe prices around mines would be stabler,” she reported, “but in Masan, one of those areas, it was also 6,000 KPW.”

Last month, rice cost 4,300 KPW in Pyongyang, 4,500 KPW in Sinuiji and 5,050 KPW in Hyesan. Moreover, prices actually went down last week, to 4,250 KPW, 4,380 KPW and 4,800 KPW respectively. But now they have increased by 1,000 KPW within a week.

Daily NK sources speculate that the reason for the sharp increase is due to reduced distribution of rice and below-average yield of early new potatoes. Of course, April and May are called the “farming hardship period” for a reason; in other words, supply-side limitations could simply be filtering down to the retail market.

According to the source, local people are concerned that prices could rise to 7,000 KPW, the high point reached during the mourning period for Kim Jong Il at the start of 2012. However, others are less worried, saying, “Since fall is right in front of us, prices won’t rise any more.”

Although rice prices usually vary in accordance with fluctuations in currency exchange rates, recent ups and downs have not followed this pattern. Despite the fact that the North Korean Won is currently 30 KPW stronger per Chinese Yuan higher than it was last month, rice prices have sharply increased.

“In fifteen days, people will harvest barley and have corn that was planted earlier. So rice prices won’t go up any more,” the source in Yangkang Province said. However, the source in North Hamkyung Province voiced the concern that “flooding from the monsoon may influence yields of barley, corn and other grains.”

Analyzing the situation, Kwon Tae Jin of GS&J Institute said, “Rice is never abundant in Hyesan; it must have been affected by drought in eastern parts of China. Travel restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of diseases may have contributed to the increase as well.”

“Once the corn is harvested in August, prices will stabilize for a while. But a poor yield overall could cause them to start rising later,” he predicted.

Read the full story here:
Markets See Quick Spike in Rice Prices
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2014-7-25

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