Food and other commodity prices on the increase

The Daily NK reports that food is now at record prices (5,oooW/kg) despite the food market operating under ‘normal’ operations. According to the article:

The price of rice has hit 5,000 North Korean Won/kg in the market in Hyesan, Yangkang Province. This is the first time that the psychologically significant price point has been reached under ‘normal’ market operations in the region.

A source from the city told Daily NK today, “The price was just 4,500 won as recently as the 5th, but this morning it reached 5,000 won. The prices of all other items are also on the rise, and as corn and rice prices rise in the midst of an already difficult food situation, many households are buying less food.”

Rice prices in other regions are rising too, other sources have informed Daily NK. Rice was selling for 4,500 won in Musan, North Hamkyung Province on the 5th, and had already exceeded 5,000 won in Muncheon, Kangwon Province on that same day.

Rice prices in North Korea tend to reflect the upward (or downward) trend in the exchange rate of the day, indicating the strong causal relationship between them. So it is no surprise that whereas the Chinese Yuan exchange rate was 800 to 1 on July 5th, it had risen to 810-820 won/Yuan by July 9th, and today reached 860 won/Yuan (July 10th).

Increasing exchange rates and rice prices will inevitably exert upward pressure on all prices, aggravating inflation. Naturally, people are complaining, “How are we meant to survive when rice is so expensive?” the source commented.

Prices rises are of course not the problem–they are a symptom of the problem: the DPRK has a poorly developed agricultural production and and distribution infrastructure. Although the North Korean people have shown great ingenuity at developing local coping mechanism do deal with adverse agriculture supply shocks (such as hoarding, making liquor, preserving food, cultivating private plots, and using cell phones to solve problems), they still lack access to crop insurance, futures markets, infrastructure, security of land and earnings, inflation, etc.

Read the full story here:
Rice Arrives Back at 5,000 Won
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol


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