North Korea’s food prices fall as new goods hit the market

The market price of rice in North Korea recently fell from around KPW 5,000 a kilogram to around KPW 4,200 to 4,500 per kilogram, Daily NK has learned. 

A Daily NK source in Yanggang Province said Wednesday that, after falling slightly earlier this month, food prices in markets in Hyesan have recently fallen even further. 

According to the source, rice was selling at KPW 4,200 a kilogram and corn at KPW 2,100 in Hyesan markets from Nov. 8. This essentially amounts to 28.8% and 8.7% drops in prices from the previous week, respectively, when the prices were KPW 5,300 and KPW 2,300. 

In major cities such as the capital Pyongyang and Sinuiju in North Pyongan Province, rice prices have dropped as well.

In Pyongyang, the price of rice recently fell from KPW 4,900 on Nov. 1 to KPW 4,500, while in Sinuiju, it fell from KPW 4,900 to KPW 4,550. However, the price of corn has held steady at KPW 1,900 in both cities.

Rice planting in North Korea
Rice planting in North Korea. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Worth noting is that rice is cheaper in Hyesan than it is in Pyongyang or Sinuiju. The price of rice in Hyesan is usually higher than in the other two cities.

The source said big container trucks laden with food have recently been arriving in Hyesan from Pukchang, South Hamgyong Province. These supplies of food have apparently impacted prices in Hyesan as they hit the market.

The price of rice in Pukchang has dropped to KPW 3,800 a kilogram, or otherwise in the KPW 3,000 range. Corn is selling at KPW 1,800 a kilogram, slightly cheaper than in other regions.

Among the major reasons for the falling food prices is the fall harvest. Prices are dropping as farmers in need of money begin selling food in the market during the October and November harvest season.

Meanwhile, the source said some locals and donju — the country’s wealthy entrepreneurial class — are hoarding food as food prices fall. However, he said they are doing so carefully as the government is cracking down on bulk purchases of food.

The source further speculated that with locals buying up food in fear of food shortages next year, food prices may begin to rise again soon.

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North Korea’s food prices fall as new goods hit the market