BEIJING: North Korean food imports from neighboring China dropped again in November, according to recent figures from Chinese customs.
The drop continues an ongoing decline in food shipments beginning in the summer months, and has seen cereal imports decrease by about 80 percent, from over 5000 tonnes to 1000.
Other commonly traded goods, like products of the milling industry also declined from much higher totals in the summer months. While the decreases can to some extent be explained by seasonal factors, the imports remain much lower than their 2014 equivalents.
“The decreasing trend means two things. Firstly, we can guess that the cereal production is enough at least for the minimum needs of North Koreans, so they do not need to import much food,” Kim Young-Hoon at the Korea Rural Economic Institute told NK News.
“Secondly, we also can guess there’s lack of foreign money in North Korea, so they cannot import enough food, however (this) is not a current problem,” Kim continued.
Overall, in the first 11 months of this year the DPRK has imported nearly 17 thousand tonnes of cereals from China, as compared to 75 thousand in over the same period in 2015. According to Chinese customs, the total cost of this year’s shipments was $7.5 million.
The low levels of food imports come despite a long running drought earlier in the year which saw numerous countries and international aid agencies increase donations. Some experts have warned that North Korea could face food shortages next year, and the UN’s FAO has claimed a large shortfall still exists.
“If their yield is lacking due to drought, they would have imported a lot even though they do not have enough foreign money,” Kim said.
According to the ITC Trade Map, the DPRK hasn’t attempted to make up any shortfalls by importing from other countries. Although not all governments make their trade figures available at monthly intervals, the DPRK does not appear to have sourced significant amounts of cereals from other locations so far this year.