According to Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports, the price of flour was 4,000-4,600 North Korean won (£3.67-£4.22) per kilogram in 2019.
The pandemic then sent it skyrocketing to NKW30,000 (£27.52) per kilogram.
It has now stood at around 18,000 won ($16.51) per kilogram, far less than during COVID, but still three times more expensive than rice, long considered a luxury reserved for the wealthiest North Koreans. . The majority of the population mix the rice with other ingredients or replace it with cheaper maize or millet, RFA said.
A source told the US-funded nonprofit news source that flour-based foods are usually presented to display a host’s reputation to diners.
“These are the most prosperous households who can buy imported flour in the market and prepare foods like bread and jijim (savory pancakes).”
Flour and COVID
North Korea relied heavily on Russia and China for its flour imports. The country’s climate, terrain and soil conditions are not particularly favorable for agriculture – only 1.48 million hectares of cultivated land out of a total area of 12 million hectares. The situation is made worse by his farming methods. According to a BBC report, Pyongyang may have some of the most sophisticated military technology in the world, but it lacks the modern machinery needed for agriculture.
The outbreak of the COVID pandemic prompted North Korea to close its borders in January 2020, halting almost all trade and causing domestic flour prices to skyrocket. In addition, the country was hit by floods, which further reduced the yield of cereals grown in the country.
China resumed trade with North Korea in January this year – with imports (mainly wheat flour and edible oil) jumping to $173.4 million from $13 million a year previous – but the reclusive country quickly closed borders again amid a fresh outbreak in China, RFA said.
According to data from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), North Korea faces food shortages estimated at 860,000 tons, or about two to three months of food consumption.
CIA World Factbook reports, “Much of the population suffers from low levels of food consumption and very low dietary diversity; economic constraints, in particular resulting from the global impact of COVID-19, increased the population’s vulnerability to food insecurity.
Bread is a universal food, linked to culinary tradition in one form or another in all countries of the world – a symbol of culture, history and anthropology, of hunger and wealth. In fact, in North Korea, it is considered more desirable than a luxury handbag or watch.
“When the price of flour is more than two or three times that of rice, as it is now, bread and mandu (dumplings) suddenly become foods that only high officials and the fabulously wealthy can afford to eat. Thus, flour-based foods are now a symbol of wealth,”said the RFA source.