Unification Media Group (UMG): It is said that the drought has been broken in North Korea following heavy rains. Residents are collectively breathing a sigh of relief because vegetable prices have fallen slightly. Reporter Kang Mi Jin is here to tell us more.
Reporter Kang Mi Jin (Kang): North Korean residents have to work hard to grow food, so the heavy rains last week must have been very welcome. According to a source, the crops that were suffering from the drought have been revitalized by the rain. It’s really a pleasing development for the farmers who were greatly concerned by the unprecedented drought.
There’s also other good news in that the price of vegetables are reportedly declining. In normal times, vegetable prices rise slightly during the period in June and July after some of the crops have been harvested but before the rice harvesting season. However, this year, the prices are reportedly declining early and residents are said to be jubilant over the news.
UMG: This is good news. The residents must be welcoming the price drop because they eat a lot of vegetables. How are they responding?
Kang: Market price drops are always welcomed by the residents regardless of what the item is. But a decline in vegetable prices brings the biggest impact because most North Koreans rely on vegetables every day.
At the beginning of June, the price of cabbage (1 kg) was 1500 KPW, but it has plummeted to 500 KPW recently. So housewives are said to be stocking up on them. Also, seasonal vegetables like lettuce, cabbage seedlings and red radish have been pouring into the markets. Vendors are selling the vegetables at a lower price due to the difficulty in storing them.
In addition, imported radishes from China are trading at cheaper prices than last month. In Ryanggang Province and North Hamgyong Province, radishes (1 kg) are selling at 700-800 KPW in most markets. For this reason, shredded radish kimchi is also selling like hot cakes in the markets as a summer side dish.
UMG: You just mentioned that storing vegetables is difficult in North Korea. Can you elaborate?
Kang: North Korean residents have largely turned to using electricity produced by solar panels. Even so, that’s not enough to run a large storage warehouse. Vegetables must remain fresh, so they cannot be stored in a regular warehouse on hot summer days.
This is why people use dugouts to help keep the vegetables cool. They are usually built 1.5-2 meters under the ground, and are perfect places to avoid the midsummer heat.
However, since most of them are only 2-2.5 m2 in size, they are not suitable for mass storage. Also, cabbages grown in greenhouses are said to expire faster, as they have greater amounts of moisture in them. This is one of the reasons that residents are selling them at cheaper prices. As a result, the price of cabbages is falling in the markets.
UMG: The decline in the price of vegetables is welcome, but rice prices seem to be just as important for the residents. How are the rice prices in North Korea now?
Kang: Rice (1 kg) is said to selling at 5800 KPW in Wonsan, Kangwon Province, and Ryanggang Province. This is still a burdensome price for the residents, but it is expected to decline slightly as the harvest time for barley is approaching.
According to the source, the North Korean authorities are putting efforts into developing a new cultivar of barley that grows in shorter days and has higher yield. Recently, a new species of barley that can be grown in 70 days has been developed, so people can harvest them two times a year in most regions now. In cold regions like Ryanggang Province, barley is normally planted from April 25 to May 1, and it’s now almost time for harvest.
The price of barley that can be harvested after 100 days used to sold at 2500 KPW per kilo in the markets, but the new cultivar is reportedly selling at 1500-1800 KPW.
UMG: Thank you for sharing the news. Lastly, let’s take a look at North Korea’s market prices.