North Korea’s efforts to mechanize the agricultural sector have not yielded much success

Tractors seen in a Korean Central TV clip on March 11, 2021. (KCTV)

While North Korean authorities have focused on mechanizing the agricultural sector to solve the country’s chronic food shortages, the results have been disappointing, Daily NK has learned.

“The party committee conducted a review in the first quarter of efforts to implement the central government’s plans in the field of agricultural production. Officials remarked during the meeting that tractors are not used to plow the fields,” a source in South Hwanghae province told Daily NK on April 19, speaking on condition of anonymity. .

The North Korean government has chosen the goal of increasing each farm’s grain yields by more than one ton per jongbo (about 9,900 square meters) at the fourth plenary meeting of the Eighth Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea at the end of 2021. To achieve this goal, the government is actively pursuing agricultural mechanization.

“If we start to modernize labor-intensive agricultural work and continue to increase the share of agricultural work done with machines by combining large, medium and small machines and modern agricultural equipment with simple manual equipment , we will be able to make significant progress to move firmly to the next level,” Rodong Sinmun, a public body, reported in a March 20 article titled “More modern agricultural machinery should be built and sent to farms.”

But contrary to the expectations of the North Korean authorities, the agricultural machinery is not working properly, which has disrupted efforts to till the fields.

“During the review, the farm management committee talked about the shortage of gasoline, tires and other parts. But the party committee asked the farmers to fulfill their orders in the spirit of self-sufficiency without coming up with any meaningful solutions,” the source said.

It is not uncommon in North Korea for agricultural machinery to break down due to a shortage of gasoline and/or parts needed for repairs. It is common for tractors to be immobile due to engine malfunctions when exposed at farmer morale-boosting events, as well as for farmers stealing machine parts from other farms.

Despite these current circumstances, the North Korean authorities have essentially continued to emphasize self-sufficiency without offering viable solutions.

“The authorities should have set aside these materials last winter, but they did not. Additionally, imported products such as tires and bearings are not readily available in the market since the border was closed for COVID-19,” the source explained.

“Machine shops across the province are struggling to comply with instructions to set aside additional inventory. It is difficult for them to raise funds because even the donju [North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class] lend more to the agricultural sector. And even if they could raise the money they need, the parts just aren’t available,” the source added.

North Korea has pushed for the domestic production of raw materials, subsidiary materials and steel machinery parts. However, this has become increasingly difficult, as imports have been interrupted by the closure of national borders during the pandemic and because there has been no reliable supply of spare parts needed for agricultural equipment over the past few years. last years.

With farmers unable to use farm equipment properly, it will likely not be easy for them to meet their production increase targets this year.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Please direct any comments or questions regarding this article to [email protected]

read in korean

Lana T. Arthur