As part of broader efforts to relieve the country’s chronic manure shortages, North Korean authorities in Yanggang Province have significantly increased the quota of grass each farmer needs to collect, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Daily NK source in Yanggang Province on Tuesday, people are “leaving their houses early in the morning and returning after dark” so that they can meet the new, higher quota on grass collection.

Each farmer in the province has typically had to collect around 1.5 tons of grass each year, but the quota has now increased to two tons this year, according to the source. Farmers at the majority of collective farms in Yanggang Province are reportedly heading into forests to cut grass before it becomes fully grown.

North Korean farmers are required to engage in annual “grass manure battles,” which involve cutting grass in the summer and then composting it to create manure for next year’s farming season. This “battle” essentially mobilizes North Korean farmers to take part in efforts to increase the country’s grain production.

In the early 2010s, all adults over the age of 17 had to collect one ton of grass each; the quota per person has gradually increased ever since. Daily NK’s source in Yanggang Province pointed out, however, that increasing the annual quota of grass collection by half a ton is rare.

North Korean authorities may have decided to mobilize people to solve the country’s shortage of manure, which has only gotten worse since the shutdown of trade over the Sino-North Korean border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daily NK’s source also reported that the “manure battle” came earlier this year compared to last year – perhaps because of the increased quota.

“A ‘grass-cutting battle’ has already begun at most farmers in the province, including in Daehongdan, Bochon, Baekam and Samjiyon counties,” the source said. “This year, construction projects were finished early to avoid the rainy season, and the increase in grass-cutting quotas increased, leading the province’s Rural Management Committee to start the grass-cutting [battle] earlier than usual.”

Grass-cutting activities are usually done by teams of people, but the teams only include “two or three people this year, likely because of [fears over] the coronavirus,” he added.

The source also told Daily NK that farmers in the province are focused on finding areas with high-quality grass, and that “technical advisors” are providing farmers with knowledge about how to compost the grass they have collected.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kang Mi Jin
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.