As the North Korean planting season has begun in earnest, some collective farms in the country are facing difficulties acquiring agriculture supplies due to the closure of the Sino-North Korean border, Daily NK has learned. 

“Things have been chaotic because of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of the year, but now the country’s farmers are having trouble obtaining supplies,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK yesterday. “The border closure has made it difficult to acquire the imported items we used to get.” 

Collective farms are desperately in need of vinyl film because this material is crucial for maintaining temperatures in greenhouses. Since the early 2010s, demand for vinyl film has increased rapidly as farmers in the country have conducted more greenhouse-based agricultural production. 

North Korea does produce its own vinyl film, but the majority of the material has been imported from China. The shutdown of the Sino-North Korean border has led to a massive decrease in supply of the material domestically, and the remaining stock in local markets is growing more expensive. 

“The price for one meter of thin plastic film was KPW 5,500 at a market in Hyesan in late April, yet many people tried to purchase what they could,” the source said. “There were so many buyers that the seller said that he could sell no more than 20 meters to each person.” 

“Right now the material is going for about KPW 4,100 per meter in the market,” continued the source. “There’s just not enough to go around.” 

The price of vinyl film in April last year was about KPW 1,000 per meter, meaning that the price of the material has at least quadrupled. 

Collective farms throughout the country have taken it upon themselves to obtain what they can without government help. Some farms have even handed down “quotas” of supplies for individual farmers to fulfill.

“The Ministry of Agriculture provides an inadequate amount of farming supplies, so farmers have no choice but to purchase the rest in local markets,” the source said. “They’re putting into practice the ‘self-reliance’ government officials are always talking about.” 

Meanwhile, there was hope that the Sino-North Korean border would soon open up based on the news that COVID-19 patients are recovering in China, “but that hope has now faded,” the source noted, adding, “The prices of other imported items are also unstable [fluctuating].”

*Translated by Violet Kim

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.