Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

Food imports from China fall in 2014

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s grain imports from China tumbled more than 50 percent on-year in the first half of this year, data showed Wednesday, amid speculation that relations between the communist allies are not like before.

North Korea imported 58,387 tons of cereal crops from China in the January-June period, down 53 percent from 124,228 tons recorded a year earlier, according to the data by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

By type, flour topped the list with 40,142 tons, or 68.8 percent, followed by rice and corn with 13,831 tons and 3,420 tons, respectively, added the Seoul-based agency.

Analysts say the remarkable decrease may be attributable to reportedly strained ties between the two sides in recent months.

“Of late, North Korea has appeared to move to reduce its economic dependence on China and diversify its foreign economic partners,” said Lim Eul-chul, professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University.

Kwon Tae-jin, researcher at private think tank GS&J, said it might have been more affected by Pyongyang’s increased crop yield.

“North Korea’s stockpile of crops seems to have grown due to a good harvest last year.

Meanwhile, China’s fertilizer exports to North Korea also plunged 21.3 percent to 109,531 tons during the January-June period this year from a year earlier, said KITA.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s grain imports from China halve in H1
Yonhap
2014-7-30

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Rice prices starting to increase…

Friday, July 25th, 2014

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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On the availability of Chinese and North Korean rice

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

As volumes of rice bought and sold in North Korea continue to rise, stores operated by foreign-currency earning entities and market vendors are entering into greater competition for customers, inside sources in North Korea report.

“Goods including rice, beans and flour are flowing in steadily from China,” a source from North Pyongan Province explained. “In the olden days the arrival of July would have meant the worst conditions for rice, but this year there have been no big shifts and prices have stayed stable.”

A second source in North Hamkyung Province corroborated the state of affairs, saying,  “Every day a number of freight trucks loaded with rice come in through the customs house at Hyesan, and there’s the smuggled stuff, too.”

“It used to be the norm for rice to retail in the jangmadang [market]Stores only traded it wholesale,” the North Pyongan Province source went on. “But now stores are retailing it, too. Any time rice comes in through customs, buyers are there lining up to take it.”

“Stores” run under the auspices of foreign-currency earning entities began to spring up Pyongyang and other major cities toward the end of 2006. They were given formal permission to sell rice and corn alongside manufactured goods, thus in effect ending the state’s official dominance of domestic grain circulation.

The rice sold in markets comes from two sources: China, and domestic farms.  Stores mostly sell rice originating in China, whereas market vendors tend to purvey rice from a variety of sources, sources say. The ratio of Chinese to North Korean rice sold in public markets is roughly 6:4.

Lower socio-economic groups and restaurants catering to the general public tend toward Chinese rice, which is plentiful and cheap but considered insufficiently glutinous. On the other hand, affluent groups are the main purchasers of rice grown in North Korea. The stickiness of the product is higher, but so is the price: roughly 500 KPW more per kilo than Chinese varieties.

“First to attract customers, and then to turn them into regular visitors, both shops and markets are competing on price and service,” one source explained. “The stores sell their rice for 100 or 200 KPW less than the jangmadang, but customers there cannot negotiate, and the seller never throws anything in for free.”

However, this appears to be changing. According to the source, stores have now begun to grant greater price autonomy to shop officials, allowing for haggling over price and other forms of value-added.

“Customers can negotiate prices and get home or business delivery if they purchase more than 100kg,” one source reported. “It’s just like in the market now. Shops have started providing extra services, and delivery men, eager as they are to earn money, have started crowding outside storefronts waiting for customers where once they would have waited on the road.”

Read the full story here:
Price War as Stores Take on Nimble Vendors
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-7-22

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USDA publishes “International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24″

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

You can download the full report here (PDF).

Below are some comments and data on North Korea from the report:

“After Afghanistan, North Korea has been the most persistently food insecure country in the region as grain output stagnated from 1995 until 2010. Only recently has some growth been exhibited. In 2014, 70 percent of the population is estimated to be food insecure; this is projected to decline to 40 percent in 2024. Since grain production growth is projected to remain low—around 1 percent per year—during that time, the improvement is driven primarily by low projected population growth of  0.4 percent per year.”

And this table:

 

 

USDA-food-security-2014

 

There is additional data in the report. Here is coverage in the Daily NK.

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Potato prices falling

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

Potato prices are declining in many areas of North Korea as a result of the first new potatoes of the season arriving on the market. In North Korea, new potatoes are planted at the end of March or beginning of April, depending on the climate that year, and are harvested in the middle of June.

Until the end of last month, a kilo of potatoes cost 800KPW (North Korean won) in public markets, but prices have since fallen by half.

“Because it is hard to survive solely on grains such as rice and corn here, demand for potatoes is high,” a Yangkang Province source told Daily NK on the 23rd. “The current decline in potato prices will slightly lessen the burden for those people who constantly worry about their food supply.”

In addition, “Rice and corn prices are on the increase when compared to last month, whereas potato prices are declining in most regions, including Pyongyang, Pyongsung, Chongjin and Hyesan,” the source added.

According to the source, some of the new potatoes are distributed to farming households, while others go onto the market where they are bartered for fertilizer to be used for other crops later in the season. The current declining price reflects the fact that most people prefer to sell new potatoes rather than store them, because they go bad more rapidly than old potatoes, which are planted in the spring and harvested in the autumn.

“A lot of people are relieved that potatoes are getting cheaper,” the source said. “This spring rice fell to 4,000KPW per kilo but then rose again. This seems to have pushed people into stocking up on food.”

New potatoes have long been cultivated as a main staple in colder regions of North Korea, particularly Yangkang and North Hamkyung provinces. However, during and after the ‘Arduous March’ (the North Korean famine of 1994-1998), southerly regions also began to plant them to help ameliorate chronic food shortages.

“In some regions the potato harvest started last week so farm workers are able to breathe more easily,” the source said. “Since Management Committees and individual work units are giving potatoes to the market to obtain fertilizer for fall vegetable farming, prices have fallen to 500 KPW. People are happy with that.”

The current price of potatoes in Hyesan is 500KPW per kg, which is 200 KPW less than the same time last year. “However, the current potato price can only last until the end of the month,” the source warned. “By July, when farmers face some of their biggest difficulties, prices look set to rise again.”

Read the full story here:
Prices Fall on First New Potato Harvest
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2014-06-23

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North Korea encourages completion of large-scale projects to coincide with 2015 Party Foundation Day

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-6-12

North Korea is attempting to complete the construction of a large scale stockbreeding base and a power plant as symbols of “self-rehabilitation” by October 10, 2015 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK). Adorned with these economic achievements, next year’s Party Foundation Day will seek to inspire confidence in the North Korean people and strengthen the foundation of the Kim Jong Un regime.

The Choson Sinbo, a news affiliate of the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, published an article on June 2, 2014 which introduces the Sepho County area of Kangwon Province and the current situation of construction at the stockbreeding complex, reporting that “all construction is planned to be completed by next year’s Party Foundation Day.” Sepho Tableland Construction Company, which began construction of the Sepho County stockbreeding complex toward the end of 2012, is a national company propagandized by Kim Jong Un as the “Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature.”

The construction of the North Pyongan Chongchon River Power Plant, another one of North Korea’s large scale projects, began in January 2013 and is also projected to be finished by next year’s anniversary. Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea Kim Ki Nam was quoted at an April 10, 2014 Pyongyang mass rally, saying, “We must magnificently complete the Chongchon River Power Plant and Sepho County Stockbreeding Base by the Party’s 70th anniversary as a proud gift to our motherland.”

The Chongchon River Power Plant and the Sepho Tableland have been chosen as the two main tasks to be completed in celebration of next year’s anniversary of the foundation of the WPK. The news outlet of the Worker’s Party, the Rodong Sinmun, pointed out in a May 11, 2014 article that the Chongchon River Power Plant will help alleviate the nation’s electricity shortage and stand as a symbol for the nation’s “self-rehabilitation spirit.”

In the past, North Korea has revealed new buildings and symbolic structures before and after major anniversaries in order to brighten the public mood; however, the Kim Jong Un regime’s decision to undertake two large-scale construction projects and finish them both by the anniversary date is worthy of attention.

North Korea is expected to raise their agricultural production goals based on the successful completion of the Sepho Tableland and Chongchon River Power Plant. In his letter to the National Conference of Agricultural Subworkteam Leaders in February 2014, Kim Jong Un stated, “From the year 2015, when we will greet the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, [the agricultural sector] must hit higher grain production targets.”

Coinciding with the projected agricultural increase, the Choson Sinbo reported that production of livestock will also increase with the completion of the Sepho Tableland: “Annual meat production is expected to increase in stages, from five thousand tons in 2017 to ten thousand tons annually by the year 2020.” Provided that these two large-scale projects can be completed according to plan and produce successful results, it is expected that Kim Jong Un’s position within the Party will be strengthened considerably.

As much as the Sepho Tableland and Chongchon River Power Plant give confidence to the North Korean people that their food shortage problem is being solved, it is also assumed that Kim Jong Un will use the success of these projects in order to begin a legacy of his own “achievements.”

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DPRK food rations in May 2014

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s food ration dropped to its lowest level in four months in May, a U.S. radio report said Tuesday, in what could be the latest sign of chronic food shortages.

North Korea doled out 410 grams of food for each person per day in May, compared with 420 grams on average in February, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) said, citing the U.N. World Food Programme.

The North’s daily food ration is lower than the WFP’s minimum recommended amount of 600 grams and the North Korean regime’s target amount of 573 grams, the radio said.

North Korea reports information on its food distribution to the United Nations every month to receive international food assistance.

North Korea said it distributed food to 16 million out of 24 million people, though it could not be verified how many North Koreans receive the food ration through the public distribution system, the radio said.

In May, Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of the WFP, said her agency’s nutrition program for North Korean children and pregnant women stands at a “very crucial juncture” due to a lack of funding.

She said that the U.N. food agency has received only 20 percent of the funding required to implement the program, which is “critically underfunded.”

The WFP’s humanitarian aid to North Korea reached US$26.56 million last year, compared to $86.94 million in 2012, according to the U.N. food agency.

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

Voice of America also reports on this.

Here are previous posts on the DPRK’s food (2013, 2014) and agriculture situations.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s food ration hits lowest level in 4 months
Yonhap
2014-6-3

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DPRK leases ROK waters to Chinese fishermen

Friday, May 30th, 2014

NLL-chinese-fishing-2014-6-4

 

Pictured Above: Areas where the fishermen are allegedly crossing the NLL

According to the Joongang Ilbo:

North Korea signed a contract with Chinese fishermen allowing them to fish in waters near the disputed maritime border including South Korea’s waters, sources told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The contract allows Chinese fishermen to work near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea, including South Korean waters below the boundary, Seoul officials said. In return for giving the Chinese fishermen the right to work in South Korean waters, particularly during crab and squid seasons, North Korea is paid a certain amount of money annually, officials said.

“As North Korea has expanded its joint fishery area with China [to the southern waters below the NLL], some Chinese vessels are moving southward more than they did before,” a South Korean government official said. “We are thinking of more active measures to keep them from violating the NLL.”

Officials confirmed that the South Korean waters allegedly being rented out to the Chinese fishermen were three areas north and east of Baengnyeong Island and north of Yeonpyeong Island. Under the alleged contract, several North Korean and Chinese vessels have recently worked together, officials said. Some North Korean fishermen were allegedly hired by the Chinese vessels’ owners as well.

“Last year, most Chinese vessels worked north of the NLL, but recently they worked very close to the NLL and some crossed the line,” a Korean Coast Guard official said. “So we dispatched additional patrol ships and special Coast Guard forces to the areas.”

Starting in April, the Chinese ships gradually approached the NLL, officials said, and from mid-May, several large vessels crossed the border frequently, apparently for crab fishing.

The Korean Coast Guard seized a total of six Chinese boats that violated the NLL since May 19, including three 10-ton vessels on Tuesday. They said they also spotted about 100 vessels, assumed to be Chinese, near Yeonpyeong Island, and 170 near Baengnyeong Island, fishing in South Korean waters.

The South Korean government notified Beijing of the illegal fishing and called for them to stop, officials said.

“The Foreign Ministry and the Coast Guard told the Chinese Coast Guard officials about the contract that included our waters,” another South Korean official said. “We demanded the Chinese government warn the vessels not to cross the NLL.”

Military officials in Seoul raised concerns about the purpose of the contract. They say that the regime appears to be attempting to nullify the effectiveness of the boundary as well as to earn foreign currency.

“In the name of controlling the Chinese vessels, some North Korean patrol ships could cross the border or seize our fishing boats as well,” a military official said.

Read the full story here:
North rents out waters near NLL
Joongang Ilbo
Jeong Yong-soo
2014-5-30

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Market prices stable despite lean period

Friday, May 16th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

Rice prices in North Korea remain stable despite the arrival of the April-May “spring hardship period,” inside sources have conveyed to Daily NK.

Spring months are usually tough because food supplies run low as North Korea, with its relatively low level of external trade in foodstuffs, waits for the early domestic potato harvest at the end of June. This in turn impacts market rice prices; in May 2012, the price of a kilo of rice skyrocketed by 20% in a single month.

However, this year has been a good one. Sources convey that a kilo of rice is trading in Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan for 3700, 3850 and 3900 won respectively. This is consistent with preceding months, and below the 4000 won mark initially recorded last December.

The price of corn, often used as a cheap substitute by low-income households when rice gets expensive, is also showing a stable or downward trend. At 800-1000 won per kilo, it is 500 won less than it was in April.

Several factors are contributing to this relative stability, a Hyesan source contended. Firstly, work units on cooperative farms are bringing their stores of rice to market in bulk payment for resources for the planting season. Secondly, May has seen a small decrease in the exchange rate, and this has helped to keep the rice price down in terms of imports.

“It’s the spring planting season and work units have to purchase resources like diesel and fertilizer. People say that ‘rice is money,’ and now they’re selling rice they had stored from last year to purchasing farming products. This means there is enough rice in the markets and the price is stable,” the source said.

A Pyongyang-based source also reported stable market prices, as well as consistent state ration delivery in April.

“The authorities have been continually distributing rations and there is sufficient rice in the markets. More people are buying meat including pork because some laborers had a wage increase. The rice price could drop even further,” he assessed.

Nevertheless, experts in Seoul assert that rice prices could be negatively affected by current dry conditions in the country’s western breadbasket zones

Cho Bong Hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute clarified to Daily NK, “The recent price stability in North Korea’s markets is because of continuous distribution since the release of military rice reserves last year. Expectations around this year’s output could also impact prices further down the line. Some will plan to store rice if they anticipate this year being a lean one, which will in turn drive up the rice price.”

Read the full story here:
Market Prices Stable Despite Lean Period
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong
2014-05-16

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DPRK expected to produce 1.9 mln tons of rice in 2014

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is expected to produce 1.9 million tons of rice in 2014, the same amount that the country is estimated to have produced last year, the U.N. food agency said on May 13.

The figure represents an increase from 2010, 2011 and 2012 when North Korea’s average rice production reached 1.7 million tons, the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a biannual global food report posted on its website.

The report said per capita rice consumption in North Korea is forecast to reach 67.8 kilograms this year, compared with 65.4 kg from a year earlier.

It also said North Korea is forecast to produce 2.3 million tons of maize this year, compared with 2.2 million tons in 2013.

Rice is a key staple food for both South and North Koreans, though North Koreans also rely on maize due to chronic food shortages.

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

I spent a good 15 minutes looking for the report (which was never cited by name–sloppy reporting). If the report is to be found on the UNFAO web page, they sure don’t make it easy for a curious person to find.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea expected to produce 1.9 mln tons of rice in 2014: U.N. food agency
Yonhap
2014-5-13

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