Food Prices in North Korean Markets Stabilize

The food prices in North Korean markets have been stable of late.

A defector named Kim, who keeps in touch with his family in the North, reported Monday in a telephone conversation with Daily NK, “The current food prices remain stable, according to sources from Hoiryeong and Pyongyang.”

Mr. Kim explained, “Rice sells in the Hoiryeong jangmadang at between 1,600 and 1,800won, around 200 won lower than before. Other grains and foods have fallen too. Pork sells for 2,800 to 3,000 won per kilogram and corn for 600 won per kilogram. An egg sells for 350 to 500.”

He added that, “Pork sold for about 5,000 won around lunar New Year’s Day and now it sells at half the price. Egg prices have risen a bit; they used to sell for 250 to 350 won. In Pyongyang, the price of rice, which was 2,200 won per kilogram in mid-January, is 1,700 won now. Corn per kilogram fell from 900 won to 750 won.”

He accounted for the lower food prices: In January, to greet the 60th anniversary of the friendship between North Korea and China, Chinese rice came in through Nampo port, so rice prices fell and provision of food increased. Since last year, the authorities have been able to deliver provisions to workers in a few major cities like Shinuiju.

He also relayed news that, “In February, a month’s provisions, 14 kilograms, were delivered to workers and their dependents; corn was provided through food distribution offices.”

Mr. Kim predicted that the situation will be at its worst in May and June of this year, although the food situation is comparatively much better than last year. No matter how good the last harvest was, though, it is not so significant for those who have to buy their food in the jangmadang.”

“Since 1995, food prices have always soared in May and June, the spring shortage season. After the spring this year they will soar again.”

In March or April, food in stock runs out and potatoes, barley, and other vegetables are not harvested until June. Therefore, rising food prices are a chronic spring phenomenon.

He unfurled some other stories about society, saying that, “Decrees to close the jangmadang were posted at the entrances but in January they were all removed and the jangmadang operated as usual.”

The strengthened regulation of the border between China and North Korea that began around the Beijing Olympics still reportedly remains in place.

He also introduced his own case, “I tried to take a North Korean friend of mine who wanted to cross the Tumen River into China and went to the place where we were supposed to meet in mid-February, but he did not appear. Then I got a call from him, he said he couldn’t cross the Tumen River due the crackdown.”