Daily NK sources have reported that North Korea’s efforts aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19 have begun to impact compost production this year. 

North Korean authorities are reportedly failing to emphasize fulfilling composting-related quotas as they normally do in the beginning of the year.

“Many North Koreans haven’t achieved their composting quotas this year,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on Mar. 18. “The government is focusing on preventing the spread of the coronavirus and hasn’t pressured people to meet their quotas.” 

The government is also failing to provide logistical support for composting activities, Daily NK sources said.

“Several measures related to the new coronavirus have been implemented since the beginning of the year, and at the same time the task of transporting compost has been done halfheartedly when compared to previous years,” another source in the province explained. 

The North Korean government’s attention is also reportedly focused on the country’s “spring cleaning,” which began in March.

“State organizations are more focused on cracking down on absenteeism in activities related to the ‘spring cleaning period’ in March and April than on making sure people are fulfilling their composting duties,” the source added. 

But if North Korea fails to create enough compost, the country “will see a decrease in farm yields this year,” the source warned.

North Korea lacks chemical fertilizer and mobilizes its population to gather both human and animal excrement to create compost for use in farm fields.

All North Koreans must normally carry out composting tasks from the beginning of the year to around mid-March.

The resulting compost is often piled up in front of houses or on side streets, a situation that has now caused public health concerns. 

“The authorities seem to be concerned that compost offers an ideal environment for bacteria,” one source told Daily NK.

To avoid this outcome, people in some places are reportedly taking the compost directly to farms instead of piling them up in residential areas. 

*Translated by Chris Green

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

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Kang Mi Jin
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.