Late summer rains, private food supplies limit impact of North Korea drought

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No.
1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
KCNA/via Reuters/File Photo SEOUL (Reuters) – Late summer rains and the growing importance of privately produced crops mean North Korea will likely avoid acute food shortages this year despite earlier fears of drought and mounting international sanctions, defectors and experts say.
“Crop conditions are fine now,” said Kang, who said she had cross-checked the news of the harvest with several sources still inside North Korea.
North Korea experienced a crippling famine in the 1990s when a combination of bad weather, economic mismanagement and the demise of fuel subsidies from the Soviet Union all but destroyed its state-run Public Distribution System (PDS) of rationing.
However, the rise of privately produced food sold in North Korean markets has slowly overtaken the PDS as the primary distributor of food, a factor which experts say official U.N. reports overlook.
“Many people rely completely on the markets and off-the-books private farming for their food,” said Sokeel Park of Liberty in North Korea, an organization which aids defectors.
Prices in North Korean markets have remained relatively stable and continue to be a reliable source of food, according to defectors who closely monitor North Korean market prices and activity.
Gasoline and diesel prices rose sharply since the nuclear test, market data analyzed by Reuters on Monday showed.
But in contrast to more developed countries, agriculture in North Korea relies much more on mass-mobilization of workers rather than mechanization such as harvesters and tractors.

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