Archive for the ‘2012 food shortage’ Category

DPRK imports of grain / food from China drop

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea imported significantly less grain and fertilizers from China last year, mainly due to improvements in overall food conditions in the country, local sources said Tuesday.

Kwon Tae-jin, a research fellow at the Seoul-based Korea Rural Community Corp., said data compiled from January through November showed North Korea’s grain imports from its neighboring country reaching 257,931 tons.

This represents a 26.8 percent decrease from 352,282 tons tallied for the same 11 month period in 2011.

“There was a noticeable drop in various grain imports last year,” the researcher said, adding that imports of corn and rice fell 19.2 percent and 16.7 percent vis-a-vis the year before, with wheat and bean purchases declining 56.2 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

The latest data also showed Pyongyang importing 252,780 tons of chemical fertilizers from China up till November, down 28.8 percent from 355,023 tons reported from the year before.

Experts in the South said the decrease reflected improvements in overall food supply in the communist country brought on by the new leadership paying more attention to the economy.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s grain, fertilizer imports from China fall sharply


Won continues to fall in value

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

A source from Pyongyang told Daily NK about the current situation on the 4th, explaining, “The price of rice is 6,700 won now, 300 won more than it was two weeks ago. The markets weren’t able to operate properly while the people were being made to attend events for the mourning [of Kim Jong-il's death], and that lasted until the 18th. But even now there are people who are still hoarding food, so the situation is not getting any better.”

According to the source, there was word that rice would arrive in bulk from China after the Kim Jong Il mourning period, but supplies to markets barely changed despite evidence that some rice did arrive. Not only that, “Even though prices went on rising, the upper (the authorities) still tried to control areas of market operation during the mourning period, so there were traders selling rice secretly, and some alley traders (those operating beyond the market walls) asking for more than 8,000 won a kilo.”

“Municipal Party cadres kept telling us to try and wait because the Marshal (Kim Jong Eun) had issued an order to ‘ensure rice for the people,’” she mused. “But nobody believes that kind of talk anymore. Rice will be in short supply during January, and this is likely to go on into February given study sessions for the New Year’s Address and then preparation for Kim Jong Il’s birthday.”

“The U.S. Dollar exchange rate here is out of control, and has reached 9,100 won per dollar. Speculation has it that they will try yet again to control exchange rates this month, and this is making the exchange rate problem even worse,” she concluded. “In just Pyongyang’s markets, about 50% of the money in circulation is U.S. Dollars, 25% is Yuan and 25% is from here. I guess people want to have foreign currency more and more because they cannot foresee what will happen next.”

“People from this city can easily distinguish a real dollar from a counterfeit one, and people soon learn about traders who dare to deal in fakes,” she added.

Read the full story here:
Markets Mired in Mournful Turmoil
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong


Prices and exchange rates soaring in North Korea

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The price of rice in North Korea along with the exchange rate declined slightly in October 2012 but began to rise sharply this month, near the one-year anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death on December 17.

According to “North Korean Market Trends,” published by the online newspaper Daily NK, the price of rice on December 10 in Pyongyang, Sinuiju, and Hyesan, were reported to be 6,400 KPW, 6,800 KPW, and 6,500 KPW, respectively. This is a 300-700 KPW/kg increase from the previous month.

Even the exchange rate against the US dollar increased dramatically in these three cities: 7,800 KPW in Pyongyang, 8,000 KPW in Sinuiju, and 8,450 KPW in Hyesan. This was a jump of 1,500 KPW, 1,300 KPW, and 2,000 KPW in the respective cities against last month.

This is the highest recorded exchange rate, beating the September rate of 6,370 KPW in Pyongyang.

The Daily NK quoted an unnamed North Korean source, explaining the reason for such jump in prices and exchange rate is due to blockage of trade with China during the mourning period for Kim Jong Il and merchants began to withhold rice and dollars from the market.

The North Korean authorities announced to its people on December 5 that the mourning period for Kim Jong Il would run from December 7 to 18, and that manufactured goods from China would not be permitted to enter the country. Immediately following this decision, the exchange rate and prices began to skyrocket. Residents’ complaints escalated, forcing North Korean authorities to re-open the border to allow goods from China to enter the country again.

The North Korean source explained the unannounced decision to halt trade with China angered the North Korean residents as most goods in the market are from China and it resulted in soaring prices and withholding of US dollars as people’s sense of insecurity began to rise.

Some believe the ban on Chinese imports was reversed quickly as negative sentiments among the North Korean people began to escalate. North Korean authorities established market control policy during the mourning period to maintain order but this ended shortly for the fear of adverse effects from the new policy.


Inflation in the DPRK

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Using the data published by the Daily NK, Dr. Hanke has constructed this graph of food prices in the DPRK:


According to Dr. Hanke:

“From what little data are available, it would appear that, in the span of six months, the price of rice has increased by nearly 130%. This is par for the course in North Korea, where the price of rice has increased by roughly 28,500% over the last three years.”

Here is the source.

Here is a previous post on Dr. Hanke’s DPRK inflation research.


DPRK grain imports from China show annual decline in October

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

According to Yonhap (via the Korea Times):

North Korea’s crop imports from China plunged 62 percent in October from a year earlier, data showed on Saturday, spawning speculation Pyongyang’s crop yield was not hit as hard by floods this year as was predicted.

According to the data compiled by the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI), North Korea imported 22,331 tons of crops such as flour, rice, corn and bean in October from its neighboring country, compared with 59,369 tons a year earlier.

The October figure was also down 38 percent from the previous month, according to the data.

In the first 10 months of the year, the North imported a total of 239,325 tons of crops from its strongest ally, also down 23 percent from the 310,106 tons a year earlier, the data showed.

The data followed projections North Korea’s crop yield would plunge this year, due mainly to unfavorable weather conditions that swept the country in late-summer, exacerbating the chronic food shortage in the poverty-stricken nation.

North Korea imported a total of 376,431 tons of crops from China last year, following 313,694 tons in 2010 and 203,390 tons in 2009, according to the data.

Read the full story here:
NK’s crop import from China dip 62% in October
Yonhap (via Korea Times)


Russia delivers more food aid

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

According to Relief Web:

On 9 October 2012, H.E. Alexander A. Timonin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to DPRK, visited Pyongyang Biscuit Factory to formally hand over a generous donation of Russian wheat flour to WFP’s work in the country.

The donation of 6,000 metric tons of wheat flour is valued at US$5 million. Wheat flour is an essential ingredient in the production of nutritious biscuits that are distributed to well over a million children in nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools, as part of WFP’s project to address chronic undernutrition in DPRK.

Wheat flour is also used in DPR Korea to produce Supercereal – a specialised nutritious blended food – for pregnant and nursing mothers.

During the ceremony, Ambassador Timonin confirmed Russia’s engagement in assisting the most vulnerable in DPRK through its contribution to the work of WFP.

“We are very interested in the activities of WFP in DPRK and are very satisfied with its production of fortified food for children and mothers with the wheat flour donated by Russia,” he said. “The Russian Federation will continue to provide humanitarian contributions to WFP, supporting it`s activities in DPRK.”

Previous posts about aid to the DPRK in 2012 can be found here.

Previous posts about Russia can be found here.


UN FAO/WFP crop and food security assessment report

Monday, November 12th, 2012

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) visited the DPRK from 2012-9-24 to 2012-10-18 (25 days). They assessed the 2012 main crop harvest; forecasted the 2013 production of winter and spring crop; estimated cereal import requirements for the 2012/13 marketing year (November/October); assessed the household food-security situation and estimated food assistance needs.

Read the full report here (PDF).

It is full of data/statistics and well worth reading. You can find even more information on my DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

Here is media coverage of the report: Associated Press 1, Associated Press 2Yonhap 1, Yonhap 2.



Corn prices falling

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

The price of rice apppears to be stabilizing in North Korea as the end of the autumn harvest brings corn to market. However, this year’s corn crop is known to have been below average, suggesting that the current improvement might not last.

According to a source from Shinuiju in North Pyongan Province, “The price has been falling steadily of late, and is currently 5,500won per kilo.” Corn is currently 2,000won/kg, the same source added. Meanwhile, a source in Hyesan reported that the price of a kilo of rice in the jangmadang there is currently 6000won.

The news means that prices have declined by between 200 and 600won since October 23rd in the two cities surveyed. This is the first rice price decline of more than 500won anywhere in North Korea since the start of the year. Indeed, the trend was inexorably upward for much of 2012; rising from 3,500won in January to 7,000won by October.

The Shinuiju source went on to explain the reason for the change, saying, “Corn, which is a substitute for rice, has entered the market, easing prices and improving people’s food supply. This has meant that rice prices stabilized. With all this talk of reform and opening measures there has been a lot of anxiety and prices everywhere were up around 7,000won at one point. This caused a lot of resentment, but some of that has been relieved now.”

The clearest sign that the current price decline is down to the arrival of domestic corn is that the Chinese Yuan to North Korean Won exchange rate has not moved even as the price of rice has fallen. As the Shinuiju source noted, “This current situation is not really sustainable, so the money changers have not moved at all. They are not going to release more Yuan into the market.”

Read the full story here:
Corn Crashes Rice Price Party at Last
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong


UNICEF: DPRK Preliminary Report of the National Nutrition Survey 2012

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Download the full report (PDF) here.

I have also added it to my “DPRK Economic Statistics Page”.

Here is the Executive Summary:

The last nationwide survey including nutrition indicators was the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) carried out in 2009. It showed that 32.4% of children

The present survey was therefore needed to update the indicators for the population nutritional status. All 10 provinces have been included. Data collection was done from September 17th to October 17th 2012.

The methodology is based on SMART and MICS surveys. It is a clustered, stratified by provinces, two-stage sampling survey. The target population includes children under 5 and their mothers. The sample size per province is 400 children in Pyongyang municipality and 812 children in all other provinces for most indicators.

Chronic malnutrition, despite a modest drop since MICS 2009 (from 32.3% to 27.9% at national level) remains in the ranges labelled ‟medium‟. Stunting has irreversible impact on the development of children as a result on the Country development. The prevention of stunting in early life (starting during or even before pregnancy) as well as the prevention of anaemia in mothers and their children (mainly those under 2 years old) through different multi-sectoral interventions combining nutrition, health, WASH, social protection, food security and agriculture requires more efforts and resources.

The survey also shows a picture of the acute nutritional status of children modestly improved since 2009. The situation is not critical and does not suggest emergency operations. However, attentions need to be paid to such factors as essential medicines, WASH situation and food security which affect the vulnerable children. The presence of acute malnutrition in women is also of concern. Programmes like the management of acute malnutrition at hospital and community levels (CMAM) need to be continued and expanded. Provision of nutritious food for children at institutions should also continue. On-going monitoring of the nutritional situation is important to identify the trends and changes in the situation and bring support as soon as possible when the situation is negatively changing.

In reference to the MDG 1, the achievement in decreasing underweight over time (from 60.6% in 1998 (MICS1 to 15.5% in the actual survey), as well as chronic and acute malnutrition, are primarily due to concerted efforts between the Government, the UN Agencies and others partners in DPRK in addressing the different causes of malnutrition. But malnutrition still remains and requires continued and strengthened interventions on chronic and acute malnutrition in order to have more impact on the underweight prevalence and to ensure a more optimal growth to the children.


The credible commitment problem of economic reforms

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

We have all been watching whether the DPRK will implement economic policy adjustments that strengthen material incentives to farmers, workers and enterprise managers to increase production. I have cataloged many of these stories/articles/observations here.

Today the Daily NK offers a scenario as to why the DPRK has not implemented more generous agricultural production incentives:

A Hyesan-based source explained today, “Cooperative farm cadres are saying that none of the experimental farms will be given 30% of their production this year because it has become difficult to meet the target. They are saying that the harvest is not good and they need to feed the military as a matter of priority, so first they’ll guarantee the military rice then give the rest to the farmers.”

A Shinuiju source corroborated the story, saying that the authorities “haven’t said they are going to take all the production from the farms, but nobody actually thinks they are going to get very much. People who trusted the official words are feeling quite stupid, and nobody is working very hard.”

Back in July, each province designated a number of ‘model farms’ that were to be used to test the policy. These farms were supposed to receive their initial inputs of fertilizer and machinery from the state, and then be given 30% of their production in return.

“They are saying that the state does not have enough rice right now and that there is no choice but to give it to the military, so please try to understand,” the source said. “Farm workers, many of whom had been buoyed by talk of food distribution, are really disappointed, especially since prices are sky high in the market these days.”

Anyone who has taken a game theory class will note the presence of credible commitment problems and backwards induction.

If a game consist of two players (the state, farmers) operating in an environment where credible commitment is not attainable, one could argue that an outcome where the state promises to increase agricultural incomes yet farmers work less is the predictable result. Here is why: If at the beginning of the game the state says “we will raise your incomes if you produce more” and farmers respond by producing more, in the absence of credible commitment, at the end of the game the state can simply take all the increased production and pay no more. There is nothing to force the state to actually keep its word once the increased output has already been produced (assuming policy makers with short time horizons). Of course by utilizing backwards induction farmers realize this and do not increase production despite the promise of higher incomes. In the limit case, the DPRK announces economic policy adjustments, nobody believes them, and nobody moves to increase labor supply in the official sector of the peoples’ economy.

If the DPRK wants to offer effective policy adjustments that lead to real increases in output it must not only promise greater material incentives to workers and managers but it must do so in a believable way. Unfortunately there are no simple mechanisms to credibly bind the hands of the North Korean policy makers within the DPRK. In the absence of suitable constraints on state power (broadly defined), this means that reputation capital is even more important for achieving desired policy goals. This is why the decision to back-peddle on the 6.28 agricultural policies, if this is indeed what happened, is perhaps the most damaging move of all in terms of improving economic performance. Taking the North Korean government at its word (reputation capital), the farmers who increased effort in the fields (expecting a 30% ownership of their output in return) have instead given the state a free lunch. They will not be so inclined to increase output the next time the government comes knocking on their door offering dreams of a chicken in every pot.

If the DPRK government hopes to induce workers to increase labor supply through official channels, relying on nothing more than reputation, it is going to have to pay for failing to live up to its economic commitments in the past. In other words, it is going to have to slowly build up its reputation capital again by increasing the incomes of workers through a policy that is not likely to pay off for several years. It is only after workers again feel confident that the state will not back-peddle on the promise to let them retain 30% of their output that they will increase labor supply and output.

Read the full story here:
6.28 Agriculture Policy on the Back Foot
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong