Grain prices in some regions of North Korea have recently fallen slightly after the authorities distributed food provisions.

In a phone conversation with Daily NK on Tuesday, a source in Yanggang Province said the authorities have been distributing rice to families in Hyesan since last Thursday. “At KPW 4,000 a kilogram, it’s cheaper than buying five days worth of rice at the market,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

The nationwide distribution of the rice from military stores – which was announced on June 23 by the ruling party’s Central Committee – appears to have taken around two weeks to actually occur. 

Market food prices have fallen somewhat after the distribution of rice began, according to the source. 

A kilogram of rice sold for KPW 5,500 on Monday, down from KPW 7,000 at the end of June. The price of corn also fell from KPW 4,000 to KPW 3,300, he said. 

Hyesan, Ryanggang Province in August 2018
Apartments can be seen in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, in this August 2018 photo. / Image: Daily NK

In Pyongyang, the authorities issued rice provisions on July 6. In short, Pyongyang residents received their food two days earlier than residents of Hyesan. Though the amount of rice supplied was the same in both areas, the distribution impacted food prices in the two cities in slightly different ways.

While the price of rice fell about KPW 1,500 in Hyesan, rice prices in Pyongyang have remained unchanged since the distribution began. 

Wealthy individuals and merchants have not placed their goods on the market under the belief that the government’s supplies of rice will not continue, the source speculated. 

“It remains uncertain until when food provisions will continue, so the outlook for food prices going forward isn’t pretty,” he claimed. 

Recently, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that North Korea will suffer food shortages of 860,000 tons between Nov. 2020 and Oct. 2021. “If this gap is not adequately covered through commercial imports and/or food aid, households could experience a harsh lean period between August and October 2021,” the organization warned.

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