Prices Fall on First New Potato Harvest

Potato prices
are declining in many areas of North Korea as a result of the
first new potatoes of the season arriving on the market. In North Korea, new potatoes are planted at the end of March or beginning of April, depending on
the climate that year, and are harvested in the middle of June.

Until the
end of last month, a kilo of potatoes cost 800KPW (North Korean won) in public
markets, but prices have since fallen by half.

“Because it
is hard to survive solely on grains such as rice and corn here, demand for potatoes
is high,” a Yangkang Province source told Daily NK on the 23rd. “The current
decline in potato prices will slightly lessen the burden for those people who constantly
worry about their food supply.”
 

In
addition, “Rice and corn prices are on the increase when compared to last month,
whereas potato prices are declining in most regions, including Pyongyang, Pyongsung,
Chongjin and Hyesan,” the source added.
 

According
to the source, some of the new potatoes are distributed to farming households,
while others go onto the market where they are bartered for fertilizer to be used for other crops later in the season. The current declining price reflects the fact that most people prefer to sell new potatoes rather than store them, because they go
bad more rapidly than old potatoes, which are planted in the spring and
harvested in the autumn.

“A lot of
people are relieved that potatoes are getting cheaper,”
the source said. “This spring rice fell to 4,000KPW per kilo but then rose again.
This seems to have pushed people into stocking up on food.”

New
potatoes have long been cultivated as a main staple in colder regions of
North Korea, particularly Yangkang and North Hamkyung provinces. However, during
and after the ‘Arduous March’ (the North Korean famine of 1994-1998), southerly regions also began to plant them to help ameliorate chronic food
shortages.

“In some
regions the potato harvest started last week so farm workers are able to breathe
more easily,” the source said. “Since Management Committees and individual work
units are giving potatoes to the market to obtain fertilizer for fall vegetable
farming, prices have fallen to 500 KPW. People are happy with that.”

The current
price of potatoes in Hyesan is 500KPW per kg, which is 200 KPW less than the same time last
year. “However, the current potato price can only last until the end of the
month,” the source warned. “By July, when farmers face some of their biggest
difficulties, prices look set to rise again.”

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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.