Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

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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UN World Food Program cuts nutrition program for DPRK

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The World Food Programme (WFP) has decided to curtail its nutrition program for North Korean babies and pregnant women by about 30 percent due to a lack of funding, a U.S. report said Thursday.

The WFP is operating the two-year nutrition program worth US$200 million in North Korea through 2015, targeting 2.4 million children under the age of 5 as well as pregnant women.

But a lack of funding seemed to lead the U.N. food agency to decide to reduce the operation of its nutrition program, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).

The WFP’s total budget for its humanitarian aid to North Korea reached $137.5 million, down about 30 percent from its original plan, according to the report, it added.

The number of North Korean children and pregnant women who benefited from the WFP’s program reached some 840,000 last month, far below the agency’s target.

Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of the WFP, said in late May in Seoul that its nutrition program stands at a “very crucial juncture,” adding that it had received only 20 percent of the funding required to implement the program.

The North has relied on international handouts since 1995 to help feed its people suffering from chronic food shortages.

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

In November, the agency said that food production in the North is estimated to have been 5.03 million metric tons in 2013, up 5 percent from the previous year.

Stephan Haggard has a review of the WFP’s efforts in the DPRK here.

Read the full story here:
Underfunded WFP cuts nutrition program for N. Korea: report
Yonhap
2014-6-19

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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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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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North Korea food rations for Kim Il-sung birthday

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea doled out 420 grams of food to each person per day in April, the same amount as in the previous month, a news report said Tuesday.

Citing the U.N. World Food Program’s office in Pyongyang, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that last month’s daily food ration per capita was unchanged from March though the North marked the 102 birthday of Kim Il-sung, founder of the communist country and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

The founding father died in 1994, and his birthday is one of the most important holidays in North Korea.

The RFA said April’s daily food ration was much lower than the 600 grams recommended by the U.N. agency.

North Korea’s daily food ration, which amounted to 400 grams in January, has been hovering at 402 grams since then.

The Washington-based Voice of America (VOA), meanwhile, said the WFP provided 2,405 tons of food aid to the impoverished country last month.

The food assistance in April was up 50 percent from March and the largest monthly amount this year, but it was much lower than the 4,093 tons provided during the same month a year earlier, the VOA reported.

The WFP has also suspended operations of five out of its seven confectionery factories in North Korea due to a fund shortage, the VOA said.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea rations 420 grams of food to each person in April
Yonhap
2
014-5-6

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DPRK grain imports from China fall

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

We earlier posted an article on how DPRK-China trade has fallen in the first quarter of 2014. The DPRK has apparently imported zero oil from China in the first quarter of this year.

Grain imports from China also fell.

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s grain imports from China decreased by more than 50 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, data showed Sunday.

According to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), North Korea imported 26,263 tons of grain, including 23,636 tons of flour, 1,241 tons of rice and 1,192 tons of corn, from China in the January-March period.

The North’s imports during the first three months is equivalent to 48 percent of 54,178 tons imported during the same period a year ago, the data showed. Compared with the first quarter of 2012, the country’s grain imports from China decreased about 40 percent.

In terms of value, the North’s imports of Chinese grain amounted to US$11.93 million in the first quarter, down 52 percent from $24.71 last year.

“The drop in the North’s grain imports from China in the period compared with other years seems to be due to an increase in the country’s grain production last year,” said Kwon Tae-jin, a research fellow at the government-funded Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI). “However, the country may increase its grain imports in the future, as the amount of its grain production is not enough for its people.”

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) estimates the North produced 5.03 million tons of polished grain between November 2013 and October 2014, up 5 percent from a year ago.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s grain imports from China halve in Q1
Yonhap
2014-4-27

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UN to contribute $400,000 to fight foot and mouth disease

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

UPDATE 1(2014-4-5): According to VOA and Yonhap, the DPRK has  submitted a report to the UN World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on the outbreak of FMD:

The Voice of America (VOA) said that Pyongyang submitted a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), saying that the disease broke out at a cow farm in Cholwon county of Kangwon Province, near the boarder area with South Korea, on March 14.

Nine cows out of 52 were infected with FMD, and one of them died, it added.

It is the first time for North Korea to report FMD in cows. It has notified OIE of outbreak of FMD in pigs in February.

Last week, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the foot-and-mouth disease in North Korea had spread fast, infecting four cows near the border with South Korea.

According to the VOA, the United States, Canada and Mexico will consider providing vaccination to help North Korea upon its request.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-4-3): According to Yonhap:

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) plans to provide US$400,000 to North Korea to help eradicate the rapidly spreading foot-and-mouth disease there, a U.S. radio report said.

The FAO also plans to send quarantine officials to North Korea after finalizing its aid program there, the VOA said.

Foot-and-mouth disease is an infectious and sometimes fatal disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals such as pigs, cattle, deer and sheep.

In February, the North’s state media reported that the country had culled 2,900 pigs as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the disease and buried about 360 others that had died from the disease.

Last week, the FAO said the foot-and-mouth disease in North Korea has spread fast, infecting four cows near the border with South Korea, according to the VOA.

Still, North Korea remained mum for over a month on South Korea’s offer of assistance to contain foot-and-mouth disease.

The North’s silence comes amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the exchange of fire by the rival Koreas across their disputed western maritime border, as well as Pyongyang’s threat of a nuclear test.

Pyongyang has also threatened to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test in anger over a United Nations condemnation of its recent ballistic missile launches. North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, drawing international condemnation and U.N. sanctions.

South Korea has vowed to continue humanitarian assistance to the North regardless of political tensions.

Read the full story here:
U.N. to provide US$400,000 to N. Korea over FMD: report
Yonhap
2014-4-3

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Fertilizer imports up to Feb 2014

Friday, March 28th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The North brought in 13,769 tons of Chinese fertilizer in February, a whopping 13 times more than some 1,064 tons from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Korean Rural Economic Institute (KREI).

In the first two months of the year, Pyongyang imported 48,882 tons of Chinese fertilizer, which is far higher than 1,066 tons from the same period a year earlier, the data showed.

“The 2013 figure is unprecedented, as the North used to buy a limited amount in the winter season. It seems to be very proactive in securing fertilizer long ahead of its usual schedule, and that indicates farm output improvement is its top priority,” said KREI researcher Kwon Tae-jin.

In his New Year’s message, the North’s young leader Kim Jong-un stressed boosting food production, saying all efforts “should go for agriculture … in order to build a strong economy and to improve the people’s livelihoods.”

Last year, Pyongyang bought a total of 207,334 tons of fertilizer from China, down by 18 percent from the previous year.

Additional Information:

1. The United Nations and South Korean government have reported that domestic gain production is up in 2013.

2. The DPRK has also increased food imports from China in 2013.

3. Food aid from UN was down in 2013.

4. Food prices fell in last year. DPRK won appreciated in last year.

5. Kim Jong-un’s speech to subworkteam leaders.

6. Previous posts on ‘foood’.

7. Scott Snyder on DPRK-China trade.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s fertilizer imports from China soar in Feb.
Yonhap
2014-3-28

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Rice prices falling / won value rising

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The Daily NK has just updated their very valuable tables of rice prices and exchange rates. Things appear to have improved for the won and for those who have to make purchases with it.

Here is the most recent data on the Won/US$ exchange rate:

 

DPRK-USD-ER-2014-3-24

 

In March 2013 it took approximately W8,700 to buy one US$. Today that number has fallen to as low as W7,300. Most of the won’s gain in value has taken place in the last month.  As of February 2014, the US$ was worth W8,400–meaning the Won/US$ exchange rate has fallen (the currency has appreciated) by appx 13% since then.

Since the Chinese Yuan trades in a narrow band around the US$, the data would look much the same in terms of the Chinese currency.

Of course what remains to be seen is how stable the rate will be going forward.

The Daily NK also offers time series data on the price of rice:

Rice-price-2014-3-24

According to the chart above, the price of a kilo rice has fallen from approximately W6,900 in March of 2013 to W4,000 in March 2014. A fall of 42% in the last year!

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