A photo of North Korean farmers working to water their fields. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

The Onsong Tobacco Farm in North Hamgyong Province is focusing its efforts on tobacco cultivation with the hope that trade, which was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will resume this year.

“While tobacco exports have been blocked for the past two years because of the pandemic, the Onsong Tobacco Farm is confident that trade will resume this year. That has energized [everyone] from management on down, and they’ve begun gearing up to transplant the tobacco seedlings they cultivated over the winter,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday.

According to the source, the Onsong Tobacco Farm had gone through hard times when trade was suspended because of COVID-19, with workers forced to leave tobacco in the fields to rot. But the farm has begun working on tobacco production in earnest with the belief that exports will get the green light this year.

All workers on the farm reportedly planted seeds in February and began moving seedlings to the fields in late April as they redoubled their efforts in growing seedlings.

“Everyone from children to adults and even people in their 70s have been mobilized to transplant the tobacco seedlings. Given the hardship faced by the farm workers, the farm’s work units have been organizing on-site meals during the period when seedlings are being transplanted,” the source said.

Some of the families at the farm have not been coming to work because they cannot afford to keep food on the table. That has led farm management to provide lunch at the farm to persuade families to show up for work, he added. 

In fact, these families are apparently in such extreme poverty that the prospect of a meal at the farm is motivating them to show up at the worksite and work diligently on transplanting the seedlings.

Under such circumstances, farm managers have reportedly been considering whether to resume tobacco cultivation on fields that have been used to grow other crops. The managers have also distributed some of the land to farm workers according to the number of people in their family, though they have yet to decide what percentage of the autumn harvest farmers will have to provide to authorities as it depends on their crop yield. 

To spur tobacco cultivation, the local party committee has arranged for all programs organized by the farm management committee this year, including classes and lectures, to take place out in the fields, the source said.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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

Read in Korean

Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.