Heatwaves are leading to significant losses of livestock in North Korea and these deaths may have led to rising prices for livestock products in the country’s markets.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Wednesday, as of late July, more than 100,000 heads of livestock have perished in South Pyongan Province due to heatwaves.

A total of 90,000 chickens have died, the highest death rate of any animal. Meanwhile, another 7,000 pigs, 2,500 ducks and 100 cows have perished due to the intense heat. 

Some 10,400 animals, including quails, have also died due to the heat. 

The source said that many livestock have died in other provinces due to last month’s heatwaves, including South and North Hamgyong provinces and North and South Hwanghae provinces. 

North Korean media reported last month that the country experienced a heatwave lasting over half a month with minimal rain.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that the authorities issued a heat wave warning last month with temperatures reaching 38.4 degrees Celsius in Chagang Province and 35 degrees Celsius in Pyongyang.

The Rodong Sinmun reported on July 26 that “[s]ultry weather caused by the northwest Pacific subtropical anti-cyclone has continued in most parts of the DPRK from July 12, badly affecting the crops.

“The mean precipitation as of mid-July stands at 21.2 mm, 25.8 percent of the average and the second-lowest one in the records of meteorological observation after 1981,” the outlet added.

Kim Jong Un Pig Farm
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Taechon Pig Farm in April of 2017. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Through various state-run media outlets, North Korean authorities have indicated crops may have been harmed due to the heatwave and promoted contingency plans against drought. No mention was made of livestock losses, however.

Generally speaking, chickens, ducks and pigs begin feeling stress when the temperature exceeds 27 degrees Celsius. They lose their appetite and experience stunted growth and other problems. In serious cases, they die.

Chickens lack sweat glands and are covered in feathers, making them particularly susceptible to problems in hot weather. This may be the reason chickens suffered the highest death rate out of all livestock in South Pyongan Province last month.

To reduce livestock losses in heat waves, it is imperative to install air conditioning devices and fans in pens and stables to lower their internal and external temperatures. In North Korea, however, power shortages render this impossible.

According to the source, North Korea often uses atomizers to fog up the livestock pens instead of air conditioning. However, maintaining high temperature, humid conditions in the pens can cause animal feed to go bad, which, in turn, could cause further deaths. 

Pork, which had been selling for around KPW 20,000 a kilogram as of June, had fallen to KPW 16,000 a kilogram as of mid- to late July. 

The price of pork has continued to fall through early and mid-August. As of Aug. 9, it was selling for KPW 16,000 a kilogram in Pyongyang, KPW 15,500 in Sinuiju (North Pyongan Province) and KPW 14,500 in Hyesan (Yanggang Province). 

With pork prices suddenly falling more than KPW 5,000, an expert Daily NK spoke with said that North Korean markets may be selling meat from animals that perished in the heat. 

Cho Chung-hui, the head of the South Korean NGO “Good Farmers” and an expert on North Korean livestock, said North Koreans commonly sell meat from animals that die of infectious diseases or heat.

“They sell it cheap since it’s not from animals raised and slaughtered normally,” Cho said. “If pork prices suddenly collapsed last month, we cannot rule out that meat was sold from animals that perished.”

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.