Pitifully small potato harvest this year, says citizens

Wednesday 30th November, 2016

While the price of rice remains high, potatoes normally used for animal feed have been rationed out to some North Koreans due to food shortages.

While the end of autumn nears, North Korean citizens will again have to endure another indefinite period of high prices of rice and other market produce.

According to a New Focus correspondent in North Korea, “On the 21st of November, the North Korean market price for rice was 4 yuan and 6 jiao, or 5,800 North Korean won. The price of flour is 4 yuan, which is 50 jiao more expensive than a month ago. The exchange rate on this day was 1,260 North Korean won to the yuan.

“Autumn is supposed to be the time when rice is cheapest, which is concerning for the people, who will expect to pay more in the future.”

The government has promised that it would provide half a year’s worth of rations in potatoes, but this promise was half-empty. Some factories and workplaces specialising in foreign labour have received six months’ worth of potatoes as said, sourced from nearby farms or their own land. Others have received no more that one or two month’s worth.

The correspondent said, “Potatoes are a staple in the North Korean diet, so an entire half-year’s worth will have another profound impact on the price of rice. People living in border regions farming corn or barley may have enough mixed grain in preparation for the winter, but rice is farmed in the paddies. Last year, plenty of rice was made available through trade and smuggling with China, but imports of rice have decreased dramatically in recent times.

“Those households that did not receive any potato rations at all, or very little of it, look instead for rice. The labourers at a motor vehicle repair factory in Hyesan received two months of rations. But the potatoes were pitifully small, as small as the eggs of a small bird. These potatoes are normally used for animal feed. People laugh and make jokes that if they peeled these potatoes they would end up with beans. It is the North Korean government’s pathetic attempt to cover up the food problem that is at its core.

“As the price of rice soared, so did the price of pork and fuel. Currently in the market, the price of pork is 12 yuan by the kilo. North Korean citizens worry that if this continues to be the trend, there will be no meet to be placed on the table of offerings on the coming Lunar New Year’s Day.”

 

Reporting by Lee, Ki-cheol.

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