Rice and corn prices in the North Korean market are on the rise despite increased grain imports

Scenery of Suncheon, South Pyongan Province, taken around October 2018. You can see North Koreans bargaining for grain. /Photo = Daily NK

North Korean rice prices, which have been on the decline since last February, appear to be rising again recently. It is analyzed that the North Korean authorities have expanded imports of grains such as rice, corn, and wheat, but the imported goods are not returned to the residents through grain sales centers or markets.

According to a North Korean market price survey regularly conducted by Daily NK, on ​​the 30th of last month, 1 kg of rice was traded at 5,800 won in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. Compared to the price of rice in Sinuiju on the 16th of last month, which was 5,420 won, this is a 7.01% increase in two weeks.

In addition, the price of rice in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, which had been in the upper half of 5,000 won per kilogram since mid-March, was found to be 6,000 won on the 30th of last month, up 5.3% from the previous survey on the 16th of last month.

In Pyongyang, the capital, rice prices also showed an upward trend for the first time since early February, but the rate of increase was lower than in other regions.

Corn prices also showed an overall upward trend. The price of 1 kg of corn traded in Shinuiju and Hyesan markets on the 30th of last month was 3,000 won and 3,100 won, respectively, up 6.8% and 3.4%, respectively, from the previous survey on the 16th of last month.

Although North Korea’s grain imports have recently increased significantly compared to last year, grain prices are on the rise again.

Japan’s Jiji News Agency reported on the 1st that North Korea imported 46,762 tons of rice from China in March, up about 2.5 times from the previous month, citing trade statistics released by China’s General Administration of Customs. In particular, the amount of rice imported by North Korea from China from January to March of this year was more than the amount of rice imported last year.

According to Dong-A Ilbo’s coverage, North Korea continued to import whole wheat and wheat flour from Russia last year.

As such, North Korea has significantly increased grain imports this year, but the price of rice in the first quarter of this year is the highest among the first quarter rice prices in the last four years during the corona period.

It is observed that the reason why the price of grain has not declined significantly despite the expansion of imports and that the price of grain in the market has risen again recently is because the North Korean authorities preferentially supply imported grain to the Party, the military, and security agencies.

Cho Choong-hee, director of the Good Farmers Research Institute, an expert on North Korean agriculture, said, “Last year’s agricultural production decreased significantly compared to the previous year, so it will not be easy to import large enough quantities to stabilize food prices in the market.” Accordingly, it is often supplied to the authorities first, so the increase in import volume does not seem to have a significant immediate effect on market price stabilization.”

Source: DailyNK by www.dailynk.com.

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