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North Korea’s grain prices continue to rise in markets

The price of cereals at North Korean marketplaces continues to rise, leading some to say the food shortage in the country is even more serious during the pandemic.

According to Daily NK’s regular survey of North Korean market prices, one kilogram of rice was trading for KPW 6,300 at a market in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, on Apr. 28.

That was 3.28% higher than the price of rice at a market in the same city during the previous survey, on Mar. 14 (KPW 6,100). The last time the price of rice at a Hyesan market reached KPW 6,300 was seven months ago, in September 2023.

According to the survey, the price of rice has risen by a similar amount at markets in other regions, too. As of Apr. 28, a kilogram of rice was trading for KPW 5,500 at a market in Pyongyang and for KPW 5,600 at a market in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. The prices were up 2.8% and 3.7%, respectively, from two weeks before.

The same survey found that the market price of corn rose even faster than rice.

A kilogram of corn at a market in Hyesan was trading for KPW 3,500 at a market in Hyesan on Apr. 28, marking the highest level so far this year. Just as with rice, that was the first time corn had reached that price point since September 2023.

The price of corn is also continuing to rise at markets in Pyongyang and Sinuiju, where a kilogram of corn sold for KPW 3,100 and KPW 3,140 on Apr. 28, up 6.9% and 7.9%, respectively, from two weeks before.

Survey records show that the current price of grains at North Korean markets is even higher than during the four springs from 2020 to 2023, while the country’s border was closed because of the pandemic.

During that time period, 2023 was the year when the market price of rice was highest at the end of April. The average market price of rice at the three markets (Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan) as of Apr. 30, 2023, was KPW 5,766 per kilogram, with the average price of corn at KPW 2,933 per kilogram.

The market price of grains was thought to have been so high in 2023 because of a bad harvest in the fall of 2022, combined with tighter restrictions on imports during the pandemic.

This spring, the North Korean authorities bragged about a “bumper crop” and a “rare harvest” last fall and also increased imports of grains at the end of the year, leading to expectations that market prices of grain would hold steady. Contrary to those expectations, however, grain prices in the spring have been even higher than during the pandemic-related closure of the national border.

The average price of rice at markets in Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan is currently KPW 5,800, while the average price of corn is KPW 3,246, representing a 0.59% and 10.7% year-over-year increase, respectively.

That is leading some in North Korea to remark that food is even scarcer now than during the border closure.

“Rice is hard to come by at markets because supplies are running low. The number of starving families is rising rapidly because there is little food to be had, even at the market,” said a Daily NK source in Chagang Province, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

The same survey found that the price of fuel at North Korean markets has soared over the past two weeks.

The price of a kilogram of gasoline at a market in Pyongyang on Apr. 28 was KPW 14,200, representing an increase of 23.48% compared to the survey two weeks before. The price of diesel had gone up, too, selling for KPW 13,000 per kilogram at a market in Pyongyang on Apr. 28, a full 44.44% higher than the price two weeks earlier.

The sharp increase in the prices of gasoline and diesel in North Korea is due to several factors, including a decrease in imports because of unfavorable exchange rates, the authorities’ crackdown on the private sale of fuel and a sharp rise in demand leading up to the farming season.

Translated by David Carruth. 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 03, 2024 at 12:30PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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