Price War as Stores Take on Nimble Vendors

Seol Song Ah  |  2014-07-22 12:26

As volumes of rice bought and sold in North Korea continue to rise, stores operated by foreign-currency earning entities and market vendors are entering into greater competition for customers, inside sources in North Korea report.

Goods including rice, beans and flour are flowing in steadily from China, a source from North Pyongan Province explained. In the olden days the arrival of July would have meant the worst conditions for rice, but this year there have been no big shifts and prices have stayed stable.

A second source in North Hamkyung Province corroborated the state of affairs, saying,  Every day a number of freight trucks loaded with rice come in through the customs house at Hyesan, and theres the smuggled stuff, too.

It used to be the norm for rice to retail in the jangmadang [market]. Stores only traded it wholesale, the North Pyongan Province source went on. But now stores are retailing it, too. Any time rice comes in through customs, buyers are there lining up to take it.

Stores run under the auspices of foreign-currency earning entities began to spring up Pyongyang and other major cities toward the end of 2006. They were given formal permission to sell rice and corn alongside manufactured goods, thus in effect ending the states official dominance of domestic grain circulation.

The rice sold in markets comes from two sources: China, and domestic farms.  Stores mostly sell rice originating in China, whereas market vendors tend to purvey rice from a variety of sources, sources say. The ratio of Chinese to North Korean rice sold in public markets is roughly 6:4. 

Lower socio-economic groups and restaurants catering to the general public tend toward Chinese rice, which is plentiful and cheap but considered insufficiently glutinous. On the other hand, affluent groups are the main purchasers of rice grown in North Korea. The stickiness of the product is higher, but so is the price: roughly 500 KPW more per kilo than Chinese varieties.

First to attract customers, and then to turn them into regular visitors, both shops and markets are competing on price and service, one source explained. The stores sell their rice for 100 or 200 KPW less than the jangmadang, but customers there cannot negotiate, and the seller never throws anything in for free.

However, this appears to be changing. According to the source, stores have now begun to grant greater price autonomy to shop officials, allowing for haggling over price and other forms of value-added.

Customers can negotiate prices and get home or business delivery if they purchase more than 100kg, one source reported. Its just like in the market now. Shops have started providing extra services, and delivery men, eager as they are to earn money, have started crowding outside storefronts waiting for customers where once they would have waited on the road.

 
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2017.09.27
Won Pyongyang Sinuiju Hyesan
Exchange Rate 8,100 8,125 8,240
Rice Price 6,100 6,085 6,100