Authorities Move to Regulate Food Distribution

[imText1]Dandong, China — With an increase in the number of incidents of embezzlement of food provisions, the movement of food items has been stringently regulated by North Korean authorities.

Lim Hong Sung (pseudonym, 39), who visited relatives in Dandong, met with a DailyNK reporter on the 13th and explained the recent food situation and the regulation of food transport.

– Is it true that the movement of food items, including rice, has been strictly regulated?

An individual found transporting over 10 kg of food is subject to regulation. Not only that, the regulation of rice transport, which is formally run by the state, has also been toughened.

For instance, Kangseo County in South Pyongan receives its rice provisions from Jaeryeong in South Hwanghae Province. Previously, only two invoices were needed to be issued by the Kangseo and Jaeryeong food policy departments for transporting rice. Now, seven kinds of invoices are required. The type of rice and the quantity must be clearly marked.

Not only soldiers at checkpoints, but also the Office of the People’s Safety Agency and the Military Police have their own regulations. For instance, soldiers are currently working as wholesalers, so even the Military Police are involved in the regulations. All forms of vehicles, both civilian and military, are subject to inspection.

– What are the seven invoices?

From the side receiving the rice, three kinds of invoices from the jurisdictional food policy department of the People’s Committee, the People’s Safety Agency, and the May 14th Special Fund Office are required. The party sending the rice should also obtain invoices from the same three departments and additionally the person in charge of granaries for the food policy office.

– Why has such a measure been implemented?

Because the number of people selling rice through official channels has increased.

– Which specific means of selling rice are recognized by the state?

Those who have money conduct business with the person in charge of the food policy office and bring back a much larger amount than what was given as provisions. The remaining rice is resold, producing a profit. The party who is giving the rice reports a lesser amount than the actual yield to the regime and the rest is sold. The means of transaction is bartering.

For instance, a place where the price of coal is relatively low due to a large coal surplus makes an exchange in return for rice from a place where the price of rice is relatively low and the production high.

In such cases, the mutual gain is great. Moreover, the regime does not know the exact volume of rice being traded and that the volume of rice that is exchanged outside of official channels keeps increasing. The authorities intended to regulate these practices.

– With a postponement in rice threshing, is it true that the rice reserved for rations is not being properly distributed to each province? If they are being delayed, what is the reason?

The postponement in rice threshing has prevented a proper distribution of rice to each province. In the past, the threshing normally ended in December and the harvest sent to each province by January 15th. Also, the persons in charge of the food policy office, who were dispatched from each province to receive the delivery of rice, were dismissed by the end of January.

However, not enough electricity was supplied to collective farms in 2007, so threshing was postponed. People assume that the delivery of rice will be delayed by a month, and will most likely be completed by the end of February. Also, rice was easily transported via train each year, but this year, it is being transported via trucks prepared by the local food policy offices.

Due to this situation, there are quite a few food policy offices that are not receiving enough rice. Furthermore, in 2007, the volume of rice declined significantly due to widespread flood damage. In Pyongyang, normal rations resumed during the first half of November, but in the latter part of November and in the beginning of December, rice was not provided.

– So the current food situation is not very good?

No, it is not. Actually, in the first half of November, rice provisions were given out in the form of beans, corns, and Annam rice (wild rice). Originally, Annam rice was considered a minor cereal, but due to the worsening food situation, Annam rice rather than general (white) rice became the main provision.

The price of rice sold in the jangmadang or individually is also an issue. The price of rice rose, but slightly dropped recently, but come February or March the price will increase significantly.

– February is the season when rice is distributed to each region, so will the price of rice not fall?

The effects will be temporary, not long-term. When rice is provided and rations actualized, the price of rice goes down for about a week. However, the amount of rice is not sufficient, so the price will go up in less than a week. Originally, the average stipulated ration for laborers was 700g per day, but after considerations for the military and for sparing for emergent incidents like war or disasters, 480g of provisions are now given out. The rice provisions are mixed with minor grains, so it is difficult to make them last an entire week.