Orchards in some parts of North Korea have been severely damaged by disease and pests due to monsoon rains that began from mid-July, Daily NK has learned.

“Fruit trees in orchards in Sukchon and Pyongwon have been damaged by disease and insects,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK yesterday. “I’ve heard that disease and insects have also done damage to farms in Sariwon, Hwangju and Bongsan [in North Hwanghae Province].”

The damage by disease and insects grew serious because of the lack of “disinfectant and insecticide,” along with the adverse weather conditions, the source said, adding, “[Damage] to fruit trees by disease and insects is continuing to get worse, but [farmers] are unable to do much about it.”

CLEAR AND PRESENT SHORTAGES

The source’s report suggests that – on top of the country’s economic problems – the shortage of pesticide has led to a disease and pest problem that has only grown worse because of the monsoon rains.

According to reports by South Korea’s weather service last updated on Wednesday, Singye and Sariwon (in North Hwanghae Province) along with the Yangdok area (in South Pyongan Province) have been hit with large and small bouts of monsoon rains since early July. Kaesong, for its part, received 537.1 millimeters of rain over the course of the past month (from July 10 to Aug. 4) – an amount equaling around 68% of all the rain that fell in the area last year.

North Korean authorities, moreover, have presented what are considered by some in the country as “ineffective” measures to deal with the problem.

“The government has [told farmers] just to make their own insecticide using plant-based natural oils as their main ingredient,” the source said. “Farms are spraying pesticide they have made themselves, but they’re not really effective.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during a visit to a fruit orchard in Gwail county, South Hwanghae Province. / Image: KCNA

The source also told Daily NK that “the ineffectiveness of these insecticides the farms have created has ultimately led [the government] to mobilize local people to take measures to prevent [further] damage by disease and insecticides.”

He further noted that, “Students who were on vacation, members of the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea, along with the elderly and even soldiers stationed at local [military bases] have been mobilized to get rid of pests [from the orchards], but this hasn’t been enough.”

The source’s report suggests that other areas of the country facing continued monsoon rains – including North Pyongan Province, South Hwanghae Province and Gangwon Province – may have already suffered from disease and pest damage to their crops. Some in the country have even raised concerns that intense rains in the country’s breadbasket – the two Hwanghae provinces – could lead to “disruptions” in food production this year.

HOMEGROWN DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS

Meanwhile, North Korea still faces restrictions in importing fertilizers and pesticides after closing its border with China to prevent the spread of COVID-19. North Korean authorities are reportedly making efforts to develop “environmentally-friendly” microbial and plant-based insecticides given the country’s lack of pesticides that use commonly-used chemicals.

According to a Rodong Sinmun report on Aug. 5, a research facility under the country’s agriculture ministry is reportedly “having success” in producing a “biological pesticide” that is cheaper and “significant for organic farming.”

The newspaper also claimed that the country is “making airtight plans” to deal with issues regarding the “introduction of ways to eradicate disease and pests” caused by the natural environment.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.