North Korea releases army rice reserves amid shortage: Seoul – News Vibe24

    North Korea releases army rice reserves amid shortage: Seoul - Times of India
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea is releasing emergency military stocks of rice as food shortages worsen, South Korea’s spy agency said on Tuesday, with heat and drought reducing the country’s supply.
    The country’s deadly economy is being hit hard by the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, and while no mass famine and social chaos have been reported, observers expect further deterioration in North Korea’s food situation by the autumn harvest.
    Seoul’s National Intelligence Service told a closed-door parliamentary committee meeting that North Korea was supplying rice intended for use during the war to people left with little food, other workers and agricultural government services, according to Ha. Tae-keung, one of the legislators who attended the session.
    Ha told the NIS that the continuing heat wave and drought had wiped out rice, corn and other crops and killed animals in North Korea. The NIS said the North Korean leadership sees the fight against drought as a “matter of national existence” and is focusing on raising public awareness of its campaign, Ha said.
    Another lawmaker, Kim Byung-kee, told the NIS that North Korea normally needs about 5.5 million tonnes of food to feed its 26 million people, but does not currently have 1 million tonnes. He said the NIS had told lawmakers that North Korea was running out of stock.
    The price of rice, the most important crop in North Korea, has doubled since the beginning of this year. The price stabilized soon in July before rising again, Kim told the NIS.
    Ha said North Korea is trying to control the price of grain to which its public is most sensitive.
    Lawmakers did not provide further details on North Korea’s food situation or actions.
    But Kwon Tae-jin, an expert at the private GS&J Institute in South Korea, said North Korea was likely to release military supplies to sell at a lower price than in the markets to stabilize prices. He said rice prices were “significantly volatile” in North Korea because the government had a limit on the supply of such rice.
    North Korea had similar food shortages in the years before the pandemic, according to Kwon, but its needs were met by smuggling rice and other grains across its porous northern border with China. But the ongoing pandemic caused by the closure of the northern border has made it extremely difficult for this smuggling to take place, exacerbating this year’s food shortage, Kwon said.
    NIS has a clear record in confirming developments in North Korea, one of the most secretive countries in the world. But his latest assessment came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un admitted that his country was facing a “worst” crisis due to the pandemic and other difficulties and even a possible terrible food shortage.
    During a key meeting of the ruling party in June, Kim urged officials to find ways to boost agricultural production, saying the country’s food situation “is now becoming tense”. Earlier, he even compared the current difficulties associated with the 1990s famine pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands.
    Kwon said North Korea’s current food problem will continue until it harvests corn, rice and other seeds in September and October. But he said North Korea was unlikely to suffer a humanitarian catastrophe like the famine of the 1990s, during which he said the public had found a few grains left in most markets. At present, he said, North Koreans can still buy grain at an expensive price in the markets if they have the money.
    Other experts say China, North Korea’s main ally and beneficiary of aid, is also unlikely to allow a mass famine in the north. China is said to be worried about North Korean refugees flooding the border or the establishment of a pro-US, united Korea on its doorstep.

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