North Korean Farms Seek Chinese Investments to Survive

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Farmers tend their field near Rason, North Korea, in a file photo.
Farmers tend their field near Rason, North Korea, in a file photo.

Cooperative farms operating in North Korea’s northernmost provinces are facing increasing difficulties in obtaining fertilizers, seed, and equipment, with the most successful among them helped only by investments from China, sources say.

Nearly 35 percent of the collective farms operating in the country’s North Hamgyong province have now entered cooperative arrangements with Chinese companies, a source in the province told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Most of the North Korean farms have no funds to buy fertilizers, pesticides, or equipment,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Chinese firms first provide them with these things, and the farms pay them back with crops in the fall,” he said.

Many farms cultivate crops requested by their Chinese investors as a first priority, “but they also have to grow other crops in order to meet the production requirements set by the North Korean government,” the source said.

“To do this, they use materials and equipment purchased with Chinese money,” he said.

Crops of red beans are particularly desired by Chinese investors, since these can be sold at a profit in China, RFA’s source said.

“Red beans can be sold at high prices in the fall, so the Chinese investors will probably make profits of about three times the amount of money they invested,” he said.

Many seek help

Collaboration between the North Korean Gwanmobong firm and the Chinese firm Tianxiazhiben has been especially productive, the source said, adding, “There are other Chinese agricultural centers and companies in Yenji, Shenyang, and Beijing investing in North Korean farms in similar ways.”

Many farms in North Hamgyong’s Hoeryong city and Musan county are now actively seeking investments from China, a second source in the province said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“The key to success in a year’s farming is to secure investment from China,” the source said.

“The Chinese company Tianxiazhiben not only provides seeds, fertilizer, and equipment for the farming, but also instant noodles for the farmers,” he said.

“Farms that have already acquired investment from China are set to go.”

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Hee Jung Yang. Written in English by Richard Finney.





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