Rice Price Spike Defying Expectations

New information suggests that the price of rice across North Korea now stands at more than 3,000 won per kilo, the highest market price since the currency redenomination of November 2009.

A source from Yanggang Province told The Daily NK on Friday, “The price of a kilo of rice has finally hit 3,000 won, having been only 2,600 won at the start of October. The won has gone down against the Chinese Yuan too, with one Chinese Yuan worth 515 North Korean won.”

Yesterday, a source from Sinuiju revealed that the cost of rice there has also risen to 3,000 won a kilo, saying, “People are bewildered as to why the cost of food has gone up so much, even though even the corn harvest has been gathered.” Sinuiju is always among the cheapest place to buy rice in North Korea due to its proximity to the major Chinese trading city of Dandong.

The situation is particularly surprising because the arrival of the autumn harvest would ordinarily be expected to drive down grain prices, or at the very least hold them steady. However, this year has seen poor weather feed concerns over crop yields, leading to rising prices throughout August and September. The average price in July, 2,000 won, was 2,500 won by late August. The exchange rate for Chinese Yuan has also been rising.

Some are predicting that the price fluctuations will level off with the end of the autumn harvest, while others believe that prices will simply move with the exchange rate, meaning greater uncertainty.

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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.