North Korea facing ‘new famine’ as animals left to starve in Covid crisis

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There are growing fears that North Korea is on the brink of a devastating famine as the nation's livestock has reportedly begun starving to death.

With food imports from neighbouring China at a standstill in the pandemic and corn prices surging, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been hit by an epidemic of cow deaths, according to a source.

In South Pyongan Province alone, 120 cows have reportedly died in the past month.

"Many cows are dying with the approach of spring," the source told South Korea's Daily NK newspaper.

"The main cause of death was the lack of food and hay despite the cold winter weather.

"Malnutrition caused 75% of the cases, with the rest being caused by accidents and disease."

Since the cows are considered state property, workers also face the wrath of the Kim regime if one dies on their watch.

Now desperate farmers are reportedly stealing livestock from each other in a bid to avoid being caught short. Those convicted of cattle rustling face up to a year of hard labour under North Korean law.

The source said: "Theft of cows in order to fill the cattle shortage has increased ahead of the farming season, and some people have been caught and punished.

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"A while ago, the team leader at a farm in Pyongsong told a farmer he would give him 50kg of corn if he brought back a stolen cow.

"The farmer attempted to steal a cow from another farm, but was caught and punished for stealing state property."

Others are feeding dog and cat meat to their cows in the hope of keeping them alive.

"However, locals are accusing them of merely trying to fix the problem after the damage has already been done," the source said.

Since the cows are used for farm work, losing one can also leave a farm less productive.

And the food situation is already desperate. In the past, North Korea has often bolstered its domestic food supply with Chinese imports.

But the secretive state closed its borders early last year to combat coronavirus. As a result, trade with China plummeted by more than 80%, according to figures cited by Human Rights Watch.

"There is barely any food going into the country from China for almost two months now," one missionary told the NGO.

Meanwhile corn prices rose by 135% in the three-month period leading up to February 23.

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Benjamin Silberstein, an analyst with North Korea Economy Watch, said this indicated deepening food shortages.

He wrote: "First, corn is, in the North Korean context, rice's less desired sibling.

"However, when food becomes more scarce, people switch over a larger portion of their diets to corn, since it gives more food for the same amount of money.

"So a rise in corn prices may be a signal of growing scarcity overall."

The reason winter in particular had hit livestock so hard is because cows convert nutrients into heat during cold weather, Daily NK reports.

As such, they need more food, though they had to survive with less.

North Korea notoriously suffered a famine between 1994 and 1998, suffering up to 3.5 million deaths after the dissolution of the USSR and the loss of Soviet support.

  • North Korea Dprk

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