N. Korea’s farms still face agricultural supply shortages

There are also an increasing number of families suffering from food shortages in North Korea's agricultural regions

Many North Korean collective farms unaffiliated with state agencies are facing shortages of fertilizer, insecticide and other agricultural supplies, Daily NK has learned.

North Korean authorities did recently provide fertilizer, vinyl film, insecticide and other supplies to collective farms operated by the communist party’s Central Committee and the military, according to a Daily NK source in the country earlier today.

Some of the agricultural supplies provided to these farms appear to have come from China. Daily NK reported in mid-May that North Korea would receive 300 tons of nitrogenous fertilizer and 800 tons of ammonia fertilizer in exchange for exporting various minerals into China. This imported fertilizer from China entered North Korea in May, according to Daily NK’s source in the country.

These collective farms have begun the planting season in earnest with their new supplies, but other collective farms – namely, those not run by government agencies – are still suffering from various supply shortages.

“[The collective farms] are having a tough time farming because they don’t have fertilizer or vinyl film,” another source in the country told Daily NK. “The farm equipment [on these collective farms] is also in poor condition, which has compounded the problem.”

The source noted that “collective farms run directly by the Central Committee, military or other government agencies are first on the list to receive supplies imported from China.” What this means, he continued, is that collective farms run by state agencies and “ordinary collective farms” have a “lot of differences” in terms of how much they can harvest.

Rodong Sinmun ran an article on May 31 stating that “Only when fertilizer and insecticide is supplied at the right time can [farms] stay frugal and increase their harvest of grains,” while further demanding that “relevant units” in the country take responsibility for acquiring insecticide, which is “sorely needed” by farming communities.

The article also emphasized that “providing a sufficient supply of water and electricity” to farms will guarantee that they can enjoy a good harvest.

The supply of agricultural supplies mentioned by the newspaper appears to refer to fertilizer, vinyl film and labor supplied by local organizations, such as provincial and county party organizations, inminban (North Korea’s lowest administrative unit), and the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea – not the central government. Daily NK understands that fertilizer and insecticide provided by local party apparatuses and inminban tend to be small in quantity and of poor quality.

One of the easiest things local organizations can do to help collective farms is to mobilize labor; however, collective farms these days are unable to provide food in exchange for labor and this has led many people to avoid farm work when they can.

“Farms can’t provide food items [such as rice or corn] anymore so there are few volunteers. Even those who are mobilized to help out don’t put in much effort,” the source said.

The source further told Daily NK that there are an increasing number of families suffering from food shortages in North Korea’s agricultural regions following the closure of the Sino-North Korean border.

Inminban in the North Hamgyong Province city of Hoeryong recently conducted a “survey” of families suffering from food shortages, indicating that the authorities are aware of the problem.

“There haven’t been any measures to deal with the problem after the survey was conducted,” the source said, adding, “The state understands the people are frustrated because there’s no food, but they don’t have ways to effectively deal with it.”

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

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