North Korean pork prices have reportedly soared in the past six months. Some are saying that the North Korean authorities may have reached their limit in effectively adjusting pork prices, something they have done ever since the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country. 

One kilogram of pork cost KPW 14,000 in Pyongyang as of early October last year. However, the same amount of pork recently traded for KPW 22,000, meaning that the price has increased by 57% in just six months.

Daily NK reported in October of last year that the sale of piglets was virtually suspended due to a resurgence of ASF in some areas of North Korea, causing prices to soar. Pork prices appear to have continued rising even after the publication of that report. 

“Most sows in North Korea died from ASF, making it impossible to produce piglets,” Cho Choong-hee, the director of the Good Farmer’s Research Institute, recently told Daily NK. “They built pork-related factories in each province last year to bolster pork production, but because there are not enough pigs, these efforts have fallen short of expectations.

“Many pigs sold in North Korean markets were sold by individuals who raise pigs on the side [in addition to their regular job],” Cho further explained, adding, “There weren’t enough pigs to begin with, and then even if someone managed to find pigs and raise them, they were dying from enzootic ASF, which caused a severe shortage in the supply of pork.”

Taedong pigs african swine fever
Pigs at North Korea’s Daedong Pig Farm. / Image: DPRK Today’s Pinterest Feed

Cho further told Daily NK that “because pork prices are up, demand for replacement meats such as duck and chicken has increased,” but that “finding ducks and chickens has become difficult due to avian influenza.”

In short, Cho told Daily NK that prices have increased because of the lack of supply, which stems from both the lack of pork and the dearth of alternative meats. 

That being said, pork prices in the country have increased to an unusual degree. 

Between May 2019 and October 2020, North Korea reported domestic cases of ASF to the World Organization for Animal Health. During this time, pork prices fluctuated slightly, oscillating between KPW 13,000 and KPW 15,000 per kilogram.

However, prices reportedly started rising beginning in October of last year, recently exceeding KPW 20,000 per kilogram.

Because of this, there is speculation that North Korea’s price control policies may not be effective anymore. 

North Korea is doing all that it can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the country by halting trade and blocking the smuggling of goods into the country. This has caused adverse effects on the supply of daily necessities along with significant inflation of commodity prices. In response, North Korean authorities have implemented price controls to stabilize the prices of these goods. 

In November of last year, the country’s Cabinet issued a nationwide directive that implemented new “market management regulations.” The regulations called for upper and lower limits for prices to be agreed upon by local party committees, and imposed fines on those who sell goods for prices outside the state-mandated price range.

Pork prices temporarily decreased during the month of December after the new regulations were implemented. However, prices began to sharply increase in January.

Most of North Korea’s price controls have led to supply shortages, which have in turn contributed to price increases.

It is possible that North Korea’s full-fledged implementation of price control measures and other regulations have led to market instability price increases. The price of corn, one North Korea’s basic commodities, has been impacted in this way. 

There are concerns, moreover, that the North Korean people could face major difficulties due to inflation if the authorities continue to impose price controls without resolving supply shortages.

Translated by S & J

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to