Dip in prices helps residents surmount ‘barley hump’

Despite the lean season, referred to domestically as the “barley hump,” during which grains typically get pricier in North Korea, prices are instead on a downward trend, Daily NK has learned.

Daily NK’s sources within the country believe relaxed
restrictions on marketplace activity under the Kim Jong Un regime has helped
create a balance in the supply and demand of food by way of imports, narrowing
the range of price swings even when the local supply dips during the “barley

“People were quite worried about the economic sanctions from
China but are now relieved to see that rice prices have not changed much,” a
source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK, She reported that in her region, rice,
which had been selling at 5,000 KPW (a kilogram) until just a few days ago, had
dropped to 4,500 KPW; corn, which fetched 1,200 KPW, slid to 1,000 KPW; and
pork prices fell about 1,000 KPW to 11,100 KPW.

“More vendors now import rice, corn, etc. from China, so
there’s more than enough to go around even after making up for the shortfall in
local supply during the barely hump,” she added, explaining that the dip in
rice prices is in large part due to the upcoming harvest of early potatoes and
barley, as vendors look to offload their supplies.

“Pork and other meats don’t sell very well when the weather
is hot, so they’re sold for lower prices because they are hard to keep

*KPW per Kilogram

The respective foreign exchange rates in Pyongyang, Sinuiju,
and Hyesan, also indicate the local currency has strengthened slightly against
the Chinese renminbi compared to last week.

*KPW Exchange Rate

“In a few days, early potatoes are expected to be harvested
in Samjiyon, Paegam, and Pochon Counties, and as such potato prices in the
markets are dropping little by little,” the source said. “Last year, prices
peaked because of the spring drought, but this year, things have remained
stable despite the economic sanctions.”

Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.