Much of North Korea’s wheat and barley crops died due to extreme winter drought

Farmers working in masks at a collective farm in Pyongwon last year. (Rodong Sinmun-News 1)

Much of the wheat and barley North Korea planted last year has died due to extreme winter drought, even as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un insists on expanding the crop of both cultures. Since North Korea does not have adequate irrigation facilities, farmers have been totally unable to react to the drought period and are just waiting for rain.

In a phone conversation with Daily NK on Thursday, a source from South Pyongan province said the fields should now be a sea of ​​green with barley 15 centimeters high; However, this is not the case, the persistent droughts of last winter having caused significant damage to crops.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, only 13.3 mm of precipitation fell nationwide in South Korea between December last year and February this year. That was just 14.7% of the 89.0mm that fell each year between 1991 and 2020, and the lowest figure since South Korea’s meteorological authorities expanded their weather observation network nationwide. in 1973.

Like South Korea, North Korea also continues to suffer from dry weather conditions.

The source said the barley was only half as high as it should be and was burnt in spots. He said barley fields planted quickly in response to Kim Jong Un’s call last year to plant wheat and barley instead of corn have dried up.

Speaking before the Supreme People’s Assembly at the end of last September, Kim ordered a doubling of the area under wheat and barley, while also calling for the expansion of rice cultivation. in wet and dry fields.

After Kim’s order, collective farms across the country sowed wheat and barley on newly created plots. Most of these farms increased their acreage for wheat and barley out of duty, but suffered significant losses as they took a direct hit from the drought.

During prolonged droughts, North Korean authorities use irrigation facilities to provide the moisture crops need. However, these facilities are not functioning, so the fields do not receive their water.

The source said the fields should be so wet your feet get stuck in the mud, but they are now dry and cracked. He said that with the soil so dry, the crops are not getting fertilizer.

The source said that to minimize the damage caused by the drought, you should irrigate the fields as much as possible using pumps. He said that to do this, authorities needed to quickly get supplies such as pumps and hoses to the affected regions.

The source said it is important to develop policies at the right time, but the current response has been less than satisfactory with farmers having little choice but to wait for the rains.

He said that even if rain falls in March, crop declines are inevitable, adding that if the drought continues even into April, farmers will have to abandon barley cultivation altogether this year and turn over their fields.

If North Korea receives insufficient rain, wheat and barley harvests will drop significantly.

The drought is also hurting rice cultivation, so North Korea could face big problems with food distribution this year.

North Korea highlighted how it would overcome natural disasters by using advanced agricultural technologies and scientific agriculture.

The Rodong Sinmun commented on Saturday that agricultural production has suffered due to adverse and unusual weather conditions in recent years, including annual droughts, heat waves, typhoons, floods and cold spells. He said the way to overcome the disasters caused by the unstable skies and the raging natural environment is none other than “scientific agriculture”.

Contrary to the propaganda and slogans of the authorities, however, “scientific farming” seems to yield few results due to poor irrigation facilities, insufficient agricultural supplies and dilapidated agricultural equipment.

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