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N. Korea slaps temporary ban on sales of rice in some areas of the country

Food shortages are so severe in North Korea this spring that some regions have banned the sale of rice in markets to regulate the supply of the commodity, Daily NK has learned. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source in Chagang Province told Daily NK last Thursday that the sale of rice in official markets in the province was banned at the end of April, and market managers regularly visit grain stalls to check whether rice is being sold or not. The sale of other grains such as corn, millet, and beans has not been banned. 

When market management offices suddenly announced that they were banning the sale of rice, some businesspeople protested and asked why the ban was being implemented. Market officials responded by saying: “You know there’s not enough rice to go around. This is what we have to do.”

The ban on rice sales at markets was ordered by the commerce bureau of the province’s people’s committee. The province’s authorities appear to have implemented the ban out of concern about the lack of rice to sell in state-run grain shops and due to worries about a spike in rice prices in markets. 

N. Korea moves to protect supply of rice to grain shops

North Korean authorities established grain shops to regulate food prices and distribution after the Eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party in January 2021.

North Korea operates approximately 280 of these shops throughout the country. The shops typically sell their products once or twice a month, depending on the region, at prices 15% to 25% below market prices. As a result, food prices in nearby markets drop slightly immediately after the grain stores make their sales.

North Korean authorities have not centralized ownership of these grain stores, instead leaving management in the hands of the municipalities and counties in each province. As a result, the selection of grains available at the shops varies from region to region, as does the price and quantity.

As part of efforts to guarantee supplies of rice and corn to the state-run stores, North Korea appears to be pressuring farmers and merchants to sell their grains to the government or slapping temporary bans on the sale of rice at markets. The recent ban on rice sales at markets in Chagang Province is likely related to the lack of rice at state-run shops. 

In a related development, at Yanggang Province neighborhood watch meetings in March, police officials encouraged local residents to buy rice and corn from grain shops. They also warned rice vendors that they could face confiscation of their product, fines, and even legal punishment if they were caught secretly selling rice.

A long-term ban on rice sales would cause distribution problems and exacerbate food shortages, so these measures are likely temporary. 

Bans on movement hamper economic activity 

Meanwhile, tighter restrictions on the movement of people in Chagang Province since last year have made business difficult for traders, who are now unable to travel to other provinces and cannot supply enough food to meet demand.

“The price of pork has risen to KPW 25,000,” the source said. “Prices are rising every day because there’s nothing in the markets.”

According to Daily NK’s regular North Korean market survey, pork prices in Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan fell between KPW 16,850 and 17,000 per kilogram as of Apr. 28. The source reported that the price of pork in Chagang Province is about 1.5 times higher than in other provinces.

“Things may be different elsewhere, but it’s impossible to travel from Chagang Province to other regions of North Korea, so it’s hard to find food even in the markets,” the source said. “The number of families facing starvation is increasing rapidly.”

Translated by Audrey Gregg. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

May 15, 2024 at 06:30AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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