Food Aid Pours in Even as N.Korea Boasts of Grain Harvest

  • By Lee Kil-seong, Cho Yi-jun

    May 20, 2019 11:53

    China sent North Korea some 1,000 tons of rice and 162,007 tons of fertilizer after leader Kim Jong-un paid his second visit in May last year, according to statistics from China's General Administration of Customs.

    Yet even as the North has gone to the UN with begging bowl in hand, one official boasted of increased grain production in the failed command economy.

    China gave the North 1,000 tons of free rice worth US$1.02 million last July, according to the statistics out Sunday, and 162,007 tons of free fertilizer worth $55.03 million until last October.

    The shipments were mostly made after Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Kim in Dalian on May 7-8. After the summit, there was widespread speculation that Xi had promised Kim massive economic aid.

    China's fertilizer shipments to the North last year were equal to the total amount of fertilizer the North imported from overseas in 2016. In 2013, China sent 200,000 tons of fertilizer to the North but in 2017 none as Pyongyang angered Beijing with continued missile tests.

    One ton of urea fertilizer can produce around 2 tons of food in the North, a relatively inefficient yield but a useful metric to calculate the North's actual food production.

    But despite calls for international food aid, a North Korean official boasted at UN headquarters of increased food production, Voice of America reported last Saturday.

    On May 9, Ri Kyong-hun told a UN session that the North's agricultural production continued to increase over the past three years thanks to greater investment and advanced farming technology. He said grain prices dropped each year over the past four years and hit their lowest point so far in 2019.

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