Anecdotal evidence suggests that the market price of potatoes in North Korea has risen substantially in recent weeks, with farms unable to supply the jangmadang because drought and a lack of fertilizer have had a detrimental effect on this year’s spring harvest.
One farmer from North Hamkyung Province revealed his concerns in a phone interview with The Daily NK on the 26th, saying, “This year, potatoes have not done well because of the drought and fertilizer situation, so I have nothing to sell in the market. I am worried about what we are going to do until the corn comes in August.”
Spring potatoes harvested in early June are a decisive food for North Korean farmers. They receive their share of the autumn harvest in December, but once the People’s Army has received its share and various debts have been repaid, they only get enough food for three or four months. After this, potatoes are an important staple to see them through until corn can be harvested in July and August.
However, after deducting cost incurred in bringing together seeds, fertilizer, agricultural chemicals, farm machinery, irrigation equipment and fuel, a farmer receives distribution depending upon his individual work points, decided according to his/her working hours. Since deductions are high, the share for farmers is low, sources say.
The price of potatoes has even risen sharply in Yangkang Province, the center of North Korean potato production. According to Yangkang Province sources, potatoes there are currently selling for between 900 and 1,000 won/kg, double the price of last year.
Fortunately, the high price of potatoes has not had any influence on rice prices. According to one source, “Rice is being sold steadily, and the price is stable not rising.” In the market in Hyesan, rice is now on sale for between 1,900 and 2,100 won/kg, not much more than it was before the spring shortages began.