Market official on patrol in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province
Market official on patrol in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

The price of grain and major foodstuffs has fallen slightly compared to last month in some regions in North Korea.

According to a Daily NK source in Yangang Province on Friday, prices of rice, corn, beans, cooking oil, seasonings and sugar have been falling in Hyesan’s markets this month.

A kilogram of rice has fallen from KPW 5,700 to KPW 5,400, while the price of corn fell from KPW 3,300 to KPW 2,600. Meanwhile, a kilogram of beans has been selling at KPW 7,000 after previously selling at KPW 9,000 a kilogram.

The price of cooking oil has fallen from KPW 46,000 a kilogram to KPW 41,000, while the price of seasonings has fallen from KPW 230,000 to KPW 210,000. A kilogram of sugar has sharply dropped from KPW 45,000 to KPW 35,000.

What is noteworthy is that rice prices have hardly changed despite it being the height of the harvest season. The source said with poor harvests this year due to natural disasters and insufficient fertilizer, “seasonal factors” like the harvest are having little impact on the market.

The source said locals are clearly disappointed that prices have not fallen as anticipated this autumn. He added that some people are already expressing concern about next year’s food supply.

The price of items that were in high demand such as cooking oil, seasonings and sugar are falling, but from the perspective of locals, prices are still ridiculously high compared to what they were before COVID-19.

Moreover, growing numbers of locals are searching these items out based on rumors of imports entering through the port of Nampo. However, many reportedly complain that stocks remain insufficient.

The source said market prices for all sorts of items are so unstable that prices change from morning to afternoon. This is leading to continued chaos with merchants refusing to sell when prices are low.

Meanwhile, the Voice of America reported on Friday that North Korea imported nearly USD 11.4 million in foodstuffs from China in September, citing trade statistics from China’s customs authority.

This was a 44% increase over August, when North Korea imported just under USD 8 million in foodstuffs from China. Foodstuffs accounted for one-fifth of North Korean imports from China in September.

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