North Korean authorities recently began purchasing rice from farms and are even pressuring farmers to turn over their surplus production in the name of “patriotic rice contributions.”

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea last Thursday, grain processing facilities across the country are going around to local collective farms and individual farmhouses to purchase grain.

Each farm may offer just its allotted amount, but the processing facilities are demanding to purchase surplus production, too.

In some regions, staff from the processing facilities are even fostering an atmosphere of political agitation, telling farmers that they should voluntarily offer “patriotic rice” to become “patriotic farmers,” or that they should offer their rice at giveaway prices to win praise from the state.

Staff from the processing centers are even entering farmers’ homes to look around for hidden grain.

With the state actively engaged in semi-forced purchases of grain, farmers are rushing to sell their rice in markets.

This is because the state pays only one-third the market price for rice. Farmers naturally find it much more in their financial interest to sell to sellers in local markets.

Rice planting in North Korea
Rice planting in North Korea. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Another problem is that the state pays not in cash but in kind, providing an equivalent price amount in fertilizer, pesticide, and plastic coverings. This is why farmers try to sell only a bare minimum to the state.

The phenomenon is having a partial impact on market rice prices, too. 

As of Dec. 29, the price of rice was KPW 4,500 in Pyongyang, KPW 4,550 in Sinuiju, and KPW 4,200 in Hyesan.

This basically suggests that rice prices are settling in the mid-KPW 4,000 range, having fallen since September.

Market grain prices typically fall after the harvest thanks to the abundance of potatoes, corn, and rice.

There are now more merchants dealing in corn and “long-stored” rice, too, also driving down prices.

However, there is concern that rice prices could skyrocket when supplies fall early next year if the authorities semi-force farmers to sell even their surplus harvest.

North Korean authorities can prevent rice prices from suddenly spiking by purchasing a sufficient amount of rice and selling it at appropriate prices through state food shops. The question is, however, whether state food shops will be able to secure enough rice.

The source said the state’s biggest concern is that rice prices will rise when times are already tough for the people due to the closure of the border. He further claimed that the authorities are squeezing farmers for rice to stop rice prices from suddenly climbing.

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