Russian Supply Drives Down Rice Prices

Rice prices in North Korea’s North Hamkyung
and Yangkang Provinces have dropped despite general stability in market prices
around the country. This is largely due to an influx of rice from Russia, offsetting regular price increases that come during the spring when grains fall
short in supply.

sold for about 5,000 KPW [0.63 USD] per kg in Onsong County at the beginning of
March, but recently that has dipped to about 4,200 KPW [0.53 USD],” a source in North
Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on Wednesday. A source in Yangkang province confirmed
a similar trend, saying, “The price of rice has been continually dropping in
Hyesan Market, recently falling to the 4,000 KPW [0.5 USD] mark.”

Public demand for rice usually surges in
April, and expectations were the cost would jump due to a clampdown on border
movements this month that would block smuggled supplies. However, the supply
from Russia has reversed these projections, multiple sources confirmed.

that can hold over 10,000 tons are carrying in wheat or rice from Russia
through the harbors of Chongjin and Rasun,” the North Hamkyung source said. “These
grains go to the military first, but then are flowing into the markets through
back channels.”

He added that the North has been
emphasizing relations with Russia more than with China this year, spurring a surge in trade as well as the dispatch of more workers to Russia to pull in foreign currency. This same source also reported multiple sightings –not only by him but but a host of residents–of shipments of oil and grains coming into the North from Russia.

Fluctuations in rice prices have not yet
been confirmed in provinces other than the two cited above. Markets in Pyongyang
and North Pyongan Province’s Sinuiju have held rice prices at the 5,000
KPW [0.63 USD] level as of mid-April, according to research by Daily NK. This is likely
due to the added time it takes to transport rice to the inner areas of the
country from the borders.

Both sources blamed power shortages for the
delay, exacerbated by state crackdowns preventing traveling peddlers selling goods out of their trucks from entering the markets to do business. While this has contributed to the sluggish supply inland in the very
short-term, prices are expected to level out soon.   

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