The North Korean authorities have begun cracking down on the use of homemade pesticides and fertilizers as the harvest season approaches, following an order from the central government to treat such agricultural products as they would “illicit drugs,” sources in the country say.
The authorities previously conducted an investigation into the continued appearance of deformed crops in farms with clean water and air, and far removed from chemical manufacturing sites. It was concluded that the problems were related to the use of privately-manufactured fertilizers and pesticides.
“There were reports that deformities had appeared in the crops of farms that had used pesticides and that eating these damaged crops could lead to birth defects in the population,” said a North Hamgyong Province-based source on July 20. “Chairman Kim was so angry that he ordered everyone involved to be punished as if they were illicit drug manufacturers.”
Pesticides are generally produced by the Hamhung Science Institute, Pyongsong Science Institute Branch, and other agricultural science centers. The issue, however has been that supply has not met the demand. The authorities have issued orders for farmers to resolve the shortage of pesticides by resorting to traditional methods (such as by mixing ashes and pieces of wormwood or willow tree together to create an organic pesticide).
These traditional alternatives, however, are unrealistic for the vast majority of farmers. There is little wood to burn to make ashes and it is much easier for them to create their own pesticides. Homemade pesticides have become a popular item at local markets, despite the crackdowns.
“There are also Chinese-made pesticides but they are too expensive at 200,000 KPW per ton. They don’t work that well either,” a separate source in North Hamgyong Province said.
“The homemade pesticides cost 40,000 KPW per ton and are very cheap and effective. This year, farms have depended on these pesticides almost exclusively.”
Homemade pesticides are generally made in a rudimentary fashion by individuals without much knowledge of chemistry. There have been numerous cases of pesticides being used that are too strong, and killing the crops they are meant to help. PCP, one homemade variety of pesticide, is supposed to be made up of one part pesticide to 1000 parts water, but farmers use the pesticide at much greater concentrations than they should.
“The state is not able to guarantee the materials for good farming, so farms without money only focus on harvesting what they have. The farm’s management turns a blind eye to the use of homemade pesticides,” said a source in Ryanggang Province.
“Sellers of homemade pesticides are selling their products in secret now because of the crackdowns. The state should help farmers understand how to use pesticides properly, because it won’t be easy to stop their use completely.”