Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Rice price falling in DPRK

Friday, November 7th, 2014

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

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Sharp increase in grain imports from China in second half of 2014

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

It appears that North Korea has drastically increased Chinese grain imports in the months of July and August compared to the first half of 2014. Up until June, North Korea had imported a total of 58,387 tons of grain from China at nearly 10,000 tons per month. However, in July and August, North Korea imported 19,559 tons and 25,217 tons of grain, respectively. August showed the largest amount of grains imported per month so far this year, and the combined figures of July and August are equal to an astonishing 77 percent of the total amount of grains imported in the first six months of 2014.

The large increase in grain imports beginning in July is interpreted as an early move by North Korea to secure grain supplies for the winter after a double-crop harvest in June which failed to reach expected quantities, and a lackluster fall harvest compared to the previous year.

The grains North Korea has imported so far this year consist of flour (46.6 percent), rice (42.3 percent), and corn (8.9 percent), with flour and rice being the main imports. Compared to 2013, corn imports are down, but have been replaced by an increase in rice imports. Despite the sharp increase in grain imports during recent months, it appears that the overall food situation in North Korea has actually improved. North Korea imported a total of 103,163 tons of grain from January to August of 2014, a mere 59 percent of the 174,020 tons of grain imported during the same time period last year.

Chemical fertilizer imported from China up until August of this year has also decreased by an estimated 37 percent compared to the previous year, from 183,639 tons to 115,337 tons. This decrease in imported fertilizer is thought to be due to improvements made in fertilization equipment, leading to an overall higher rate of operation. It appears that the total amount of fertilizer used by North Korea this year should not differ greatly from the amount used last year, and fertilizer shortage is not expected to cause a major decrease in grain production.

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DPRK rice production unchanged from 2013

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

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

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Hillside farming

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

The US State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit put out the following map of hillside farming in the DPRK.

US-DOS-HIU-DPRK-Food-shortage-2014-9-24

Click image for larger (PDF) version.

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North Korea’s donor fatigue

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

The Wall Street Journal reports on the difficulties the UN World Food Program faces trying to find supporters for its operations in North Korea:

The United Nations aid program for malnourished North Koreans may close after raising only a fraction of the money it needs to operate in the country, a senior U.N. official said in a call for donations.

“We may need to scale down or think about closing altogether,” Dierk Stegen, the Pyongyang-based North Korea head for the U.N. World Food Program, said in an interview.

The agency, which has operated in North Korea since 1995, could shut early next year if there is no indication it will be able to raise needed funds by the end of October, he said. One complication is that North Korea’s humanitarian crisis has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria and Ebola outbreak, he said.

While North Korea is getting better at feeding its people, hundreds of thousands of young infants and their mothers remain chronically malnourished, he said.

Contributions from private organizations and the South Korean government in recent weeks have helped, but the program is far from its goal of $50 million, already a significant reduction from the original target of $200 million it set last year.

The North Korea food-assistance program has drawn flak from critics who say the regime takes advantage of the agency’s largess, devoting its resources to developing its nuclear weapons program and constructing amusement parks while its people suffer. Critics also say the agency can’t be sure its assistance is reaching the intended recipients.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington who has studied North Korea’s food situation, said that the WFP’s work in the country was “a disappointment—perhaps a terrible disappointment,” arguing that the agency has put up little resistance even as Pyongyang restricts oversight from foreign aid groups.

“Outside humanitarian assistance will not work in North Korea unless it is ‘intrusive’—and the WFP has no stomach for such work,” Mr. Eberstadt said.

Mr. Stegen acknowledged past shortcomings in its ability to monitor the distribution of its aid, but blamed a lack of funding and cited recent improvements in its access inside the country. He said that the WFP can now get permission within 24 hours to visit any school or household that is receiving its aid. In the past, two weeks’ notice was required.

Mr. Stegen said that criticism of a government’s priorities isn’t unique to North Korea, and urged donors to prioritize vulnerable infants over politics.

“Intervention and assistance on a humanitarian basis should be separated from political things,” he said.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s government approved $7 million in new funding to the WFP, its first such contribution since 2007. While South Korea’s conservative government has talked tough on North Korea, it has also pursued a policy of “humanity” toward the North, particularly infants and young mothers.

The U.S., by far the largest donor to the WFP’s North Korea work, hasn’t contributed since 2009, when Pyongyang tightened its rules on monitoring food aid by restricting the number of Korean-speaking monitors allowed into the country, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report published in April.

The WFP’s fundraising efforts have also been hampered by rising awareness of North Korea’s human-rights violations. Earlier this year, a special U.N. commission published a landmark 400-page report which said the regime selectively starves its population based on factors like political loyalty, and recommended the U.N. Security Council refer Kim Jong Un and other senior officials to the International Criminal Court.

Ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called North Korea’s system of prison camps “unfathomable” and a sign of what he described as “barbarity, inhumanity—I think you can call it evil.”

Mr. Stegen said North Korea had markedly improved its capacity to produce food for its people since a devastating famine in the 1990s. He said that fewer people in the country remain hungry today, even as the population has increased.

But he cautioned that the country’s agricultural efforts have focused too much on producing rice and other grains, at the expense of protein. That has led to malnourishment of infants and children under the age of four, he said, putting them in danger of stunting, even as Kim Jong Un has made a public show of encouraging fisheries as a potential source of protein.

“For many of the children of North Korea, it’s already too late,” said John Aylieff, the WFP’s deputy regional director for Asia. “They’ve been dealt a life sentence of impaired mental functioning and impaired physical development.”

A drought earlier this year has also meant a throttling back of government rations to ordinary citizens, which fell to about 250 grams a day, Mr. Aylieff said. That is less than half the targeted rations, and the lowest in several years.

As a result, the aid agency is expecting a surge in acute malnutrition this year. “We hope potential donors will see the humanitarian imperative,” Mr. Aylieff said.

Marcus Noland, an economist and North Korea expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said that given the WFP’s funding problems, its ability to monitor its work would be limited.

“Trying to maintain an underfunded program in that environment is practically inviting an aid diversion scandal,” he said. But the WFP’s absence from North Korea would also likely exacerbate any food crisis.

“The advantage of having the WFP in-country in even a limited capacity is that they are pre-positioned to monitor conditions and respond if there is an emergency,” Mr. Noland said.

Read the full story here:
U.N. North Korea Food Program in Danger
Wall Street Journal
Jonathan Cheng
2014-9-25

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DPRK reports progress on Sepho tableland project

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

According to KCNA (2014-9-21):

Achievements Made in Sepho Tableland for Two Years

Pyongyang, September 21, 2014 14:24 KST (KCNA) — It is two years since the new history of change started in Sepho area.

Service personnel and people of the DPRK turned out as one under the grandiose plan of Marshal Kim Jong Un who initiated the reclamation of the tableland as the first grand nature-remaking project in the new century of Juche on September 22, Juche 101(2012). As a result, the barren land is now undergoing change beyond recognition thanks to their heroic struggle.

For the past two years the members of Construction Shock Brigade 922 made eye-opening achievements, going through manifold difficulties.

They finished reclaiming more than 50 000 hectares of tableland covering Sepho, Phyonggang and Ichon counties and created man-made pasture amounting to 98 percent of the project and nature-made pasture equivalent to 77 percent of the project.

They also created more than 600 hectares of windbreak and more than 12 700 hectares of pasture protection forest and pushed forward the construction of reservoirs, dwelling houses, hotels, stockbreeding research institute, epizootic prevention center, domestic animal sties and roads extending more than one thousand of kilometers, thus opening a bright prospect for building a large-scale stockbreeding base.

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DPRK rice imports from China increase

Monday, August 25th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea bought US$7.02 million worth of rice from the neighboring country last month, up 115 percent from $3.27 million a year earlier, according to Chinese trade data from the Seoul-based Korea International Trade Association.

The amount also represents an on-month increase of 53 percent from $4.57 million.

The sudden increase in imports comes amid reports that the price of rice has risen sharply in the North.

According to the South Korean online newspaper DailyNK on Aug. 12, rice cost 5,800 won per kilogram in Pyongyang, up 1,550 won from the middle of July.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s imports of Chinese rice more than double
Yonhap
2014-8-25

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ROK aid to the DPRK in 2014

Monday, August 11th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Monday it will provide North Korea with US$13.3 million in humanitarian aid, in another show of its resolve to separate inter-Korean military tensions from efforts to help the needy in the North.

The South has decided to offer $7 million worth of nutritional assistance to mother and child health services in the communist nation via the World Food Program (WFP), according to the unification ministry.

Seoul will also deliver $6.3 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) for its projects to ship essential medicine to the North, improve clinics and train related manpower there, it added.

“The government plans to tap the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund for the aid,” ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.

It is the first time that South Korea has offered assistance to North Korea through the WFP since 2007, he said. Last year, the South used $6 million to support the WHO’s project in North Korea.

Seoul’s new aid program is apparently to follow up on President Park’s ambitious “Dresden Declaration” in March.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea to offer US$13 mln in aid to N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-8-11

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DPRK -china trade dips slightly in H1 2014

Monday, August 4th, 2014

According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

Grain Imports Decrease, Rare-Earth Mineral Exports Increase in the First Half of 2014

It has been reported that Chinese grain imports in North Korea have fallen drastically in the first half of 2014. According to the Korean Foreign Trade Association (KFTA), Chinese exports of grain to North Korea totaled 58,387 tons in the first half of 2014, totaling a mere 47 percent of the grain exported in the first half of the previous year (124,228 tons).

China’s most heavily exported grain product to North Korea is flour, which made up 68.8 percent (40,142 tons) of all total grain exports for the first half of 2014. China also exported 13,831 tons of rice and 3,420 tons of corn to North Korea. Corn exports did not even reach twenty percent of the amount exported at the same time last year (17,655 tons).

It is postulated that China’s sharp decrease in grain exports to North Korea is due to the souring relations between the two nations in 2014. Another theory is that the decrease in exports could be due to North Korea’s recent increase in agricultural productivity over previous years.

In the first half of 2014 China exported 109,531 tons of fertilizer to North Korea, 21.3 percent less than the amount exported during the same timeframe last year (139,161 tons). In the first three months of 2014, North Korea aggressively imported Chinese fertilizer at a rate of twenty thousand tons over its monthly average. However, this decreased markedly in the months of April, May and June.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been exporting large quantities of rare-earth resources (which are used in manufacturing high-tech products) to China over the last few months. Reportedly, in May of 2014, North Korea exported 550,000 dollars’ worth of rare-earth ore to China. This figure more than doubled the following month, reaching 1.33 million USD in June.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, as North Korean rare-earth resource exports to China had come to a standstill after the first round of exports (totaling 24.7 thousand USD) in January 2013. Suddenly, after fifteen months, North Korea has exported 1.88 million USD worth of rare-earth ore (approx. 1.93 billion KRW, 62.66 thousand kilograms) over the last two months.

Since 2011, North Korea has in fact been exporting rare-earth carbonate mixtures to China; however total exports of these products have only reached 170 thousand USD over the last three and a half years.

North Korea has been placing attention on these underground rare-earth resources, of which the nation reportedly has ample quantities of in various deposits around the country. Recently, much effort has been put into surveying for deposits of these so-called “vitamins of the 21st century’s high-tech industry.” In 2013 a company for the development of rare-earth materials in North Pyongan Province was established with the cooperation of the international private equity firm “SRE Minerals.”

In July 2011, the Choson Sinbo, a news affiliate of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported in an interview with top executives from the National Resources Development Council that rare-earth resource deposits in North Korea total approximately 20 million tons. The drastic increase seen in rare-earth resource exports can be attributed to North Korea’s attempt to diversify its resource exports. In other words, the DPRK is investing in rare-earth material exports in order to reduce its dependency on other leading mineral exports such as anthracite, iron ore, and lead.

Exports of anthracite to China decreased by 23 percent in the first half of 2014 (compared to last year), totaling approximately 571 million USD. Iron ore exports, North Korea’s second leading resource export, reached approximately 121 million USD in the same time period – a drop of 5 percent when compared to the same time period last year.

According to the Korea Herald (Yonhap):

North Korea’s trade with its economic lifeline China fell 2.1 percent on year to US$2.89 billion in the first six months of this year, data compiled by South Korea’s government trade agency showed Monday, in another sign that strained political ties between the two nations have affected their economic relations.

During the six-month period, North Korea’s exports to China declined 3.9 percent to $1.31 billion and imports slipped 0.6 percent to $1.58 billion, according to the data provided by the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).

There were no shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea from January to June, the data showed.

“Despite the six-month absence of oil shipments, the scale of North Korea’s decline in imports is minimal,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s exports of rare earth to China jumped 153.7 percent on year during the January-June period, the data showed, without providing the value of the exports.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China falls 2.1 pct in H1
Korea Herald (Yonhap)
2014-08-04

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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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