NK Likely Exaggerating Grain Figures

The grain production figures reported by
international organizations for North Korea last year were likely to have
been exaggerated by the North Korean authorities, Daily NK has learned. The reported amounts were the highest since the “Arduous March,” the North Korean famine taking place in the 1990s. 

According to data from a report released by
the UN’s World Food Programme [WFP] and Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO]
on February 6th, North Korea’s grain production [including rice, corn, and soy
beans] reached an estimated 4.97 million tons in 2014. At the end of last year,
Choson Sinbo, the regular publication of the General Association of North
Korean Residents in Japan [Chongryon] quoted a North Korean official
estimating that, “This year grain production will be somewhere in the range of
5.7 million tons which represents a 50,000 ton increase compared to last year.”

According to inside sources at Daily NK, the
actual grain production hit such a low last year that many residents were unable to receive their allotted rations. Additionally, many farm workers did not
receive the crop share they were entitled to due to some regions strict
enforcement of the bunjo management system, which stipulates that food payments
be disbursed only after production quotas are met. Therefore even during lean
years, there is a high probability that North Korea ups its
share by lessening distribution and doubles down by releasing exaggerated
figures to the international community.

Last year, Kim Jong Eun personally
announced that the state would concentrate efforts on agriculture in order to
improve the people’s standard of living during his New Year’s Address. It is
therefore probable the North Korean authorities exaggerated the production
figures they delivered to the UN in order to create the impression they
surpassed Kim Jong Eun’s benchmarks. Grain production figures since Kim Jong Eun rose to power–4.22 million tons in 2011, 4.45 million tons
in 2012, 4.84 million tons in 2013, and 4.97 million tons last year — a steady
increase can be seen, lending weight to this theory.

Daily NK spoke with Kwan Tae Jin, director
of the North Korean Research Center at the GS&J Institute, who said, “Since
the UN organizations could not enter the country and conduct direct research
last year, it is possible that they gathered and reported on different
information from that which the North Korean authorities provided.” He
speculated that the North Korean authorities most likely exaggerated the
production figures when relaying them to the UN reps.

“If you look at the steady rise in grain
production since Kim Jong Eun came to power, it is very likely that the North
has been inflating the grain production numbers in order to say that country’s
agricultural policies have been effective. They would certainly not report
anything less than actual production,” he pointed out.

Also weighing in on the situation, one senior defector had the following to say, “When North Korea needs international food assistance, they bring global
organizations to see regions that have been subject to natural disasters such
as floods and drought. This is a gambit designed to maximize the contribution
they will receive. On the other hand, when Kim Jong Eun wants to emphasize
agricultural development, be seen as a leader to the agricultural industry, or
boast about his achievements, he shows the nation’s most prosperous regions to
these same organizations. Thus, international organizations are deceived into
compiling statistics which exaggerate the actual amount of grain production.”

He went to explain that in the summer of 2008, four or five representatives of a UN research team conducted grain production research
in coordination with the North Hamkyung Province People’s Committee food policy
director–among other officials–who only offered access and information on regions with a good
crop return. He also asserted that in order to drum up international donations, there are a host of cases where residents and
college students have been ordered to pose as relief workers for regions hit by
natural disasters in photos taken by UN representatives.