Chinese Fertilizer God Delivers

A source in North Korea has told The Daily NK that fertilizer shortages near the North Korean border have been alleviated by imports arriving from China.

“Chinese fertilizer has been imported through Hoiryeong. It was not done officially by the authorities, but by trade enterprises. They imported fertilizer in bulk and then sold it to the markets,” the source, who lives in the city, told The Daily NK yesterday.

Therefore, individuals and collective farm managers are still not able to get it through the national distribution system, but can obtain it on the open market.

“In Hoiryeong, a 50kg sack of fertilizer is being sold for 200 Yuan, which is approximately 22,000 North Korean Won,” said the source. Another source from Hyesan reported to The Daily NK the day before that, in the Hyesan jangmadang, the same quantity of fertilizer was being sold for 220 Yuan.

Until late last month, sources were reporting that fertilizer was “nowhere to be seen in the market.” Before that, one source said, “We could see it in the markets, but that was left over from last year.” Then, it was going for between 30,000 and 50,000 North Korean won per 50kg sack. Now enterprises are importing it from China, its price has dropped by around half.

In North Korea, May is the month when farmers are at their busiest, or to cite a proverb, it is the period during which “even the fire-pokers bustle with activity.” Therefore, individuals and farmers are all desperately seeking fertilizer.

Lee Min Bok, a former researcher with the Agriculture Institute of North Korea, explained why. “Growth of plants at the beginning of the planting period is really important because that decides the amount of grain it produces,” he said. “Therefore, applying fertilizer is decisive for the year’s farming. In times of fertilizer shortage, a maximum of 60% productivity can be achieved.”

It has been reported that many residents living near the border and who rely mainly on small farms believe China has relieved their worries.

However, it remains to be seen whether the importation of Chinese fertilizer will have an impact on the farming process in state-owned farms. It is not possible to say at this time whether the imported fertilizer has been or will be provided to those farms.

In North Korean farms, fertilizer ought to be applied three times a year: at the beginning, middle and end of the farming process. But with unfavorable circumstances negatively affecting the supply of fertilizer since the 1990s, use has been circumscribed, and it has only been added at the beginning and end of the process.

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