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N. Korean grain prices skyrocket amid continued food shortages

North Korean grain prices are skyrocketing, posting their largest increase since mid-December.

According to Daily NK’s regular survey of North Korean market prices, a kilogram of rice at a specific market in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, cost KPW 5,400 as of Jan. 21, up 5.9% from two weeks earlier.

The market price of rice in Hyesan fell to its lowest level since last year’s harvest in early to mid-December, when it dropped to KPW 4,830 per kilogram. However, it later surpassed the KPW 5,000 threshold and climbed to the mid-KPW 5,000 level.

Similarly, the price of rice in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, rose to KPW 5,100 on January 21, up 3.9% from the previous survey on January 7, when it was KPW 4,910.


Only in Pyongyang has the price of rice remained steady at the upper level of KPW 4,000. On January 21, a kilogram of rice at one market in Pyongyang cost KPW 4,930.

The price of rice in Pyongyang has risen more gradually than in Sinuiju and Hyesan. The percentage of the population receiving rations in Pyongyang is much higher than in other cities because many local residents are party cadres or employees of powerful government agencies. As a result, grain prices are lower and price increases are milder.

Market prices for corn are rising even faster. On January 21, a kilogram of corn in a market in Hyesan cost KPW 2,700, an increase of 8% from two weeks earlier.

Corn prices have risen by similar margins in other regions. A kilogram of corn in Pyongyang and Sinuiju cost KPW 2,450 and 2,470, respectively, on Jan. 21, an increase of 8.4% and 8.8%.


Empty praise

During a year-end party session in late December, the North Korean authorities praised the overachievement of grain production targets as “having commanded the heights with decisive significance in ensuring the people’s livelihood,” calling the achievement the “more precious and dearest” economic results of 2023.

However, a source in North Korea – speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons – said that during a section meeting at the year-end party session, Workers’ Party officials said that while 2023 agricultural production surpassed that of 2022, comparisons of production per crop, including rice, corn, barley, and millet, show that yields did not increase across the board.

That is, only a handful of farms produced relatively large yields and the increase in production compared to 2022 was not universal. For this reason, soil quality, crop types, fertilizers, and other agricultural issues were discussed at the section meetings.


South Korea’s Rural Development Administration estimated last December that North Korea produced 4.82 million tons of food last year, 310,000 tons more than in 2022. While total food production may have increased from the previous year, it still falls short of the 5.5 million tons that the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program estimate the country needs.

Based on North Korea’s total population of 25 million, the country would need 12,500 tons of food per day to meet its average per capita ration target of 500 grams. Since this would consume the recent increase in production – 310,000 tons – in just 25 days, North Koreans are unlikely to feel the effects of the increase.

Translated by David Black. 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.

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The post N. Korean grain prices skyrocket amid continued food shortages appeared first on Daily NK English.

January 26, 2024 at 02:30PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)


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