North Korea’s way of fighting fertilizer shortage raises eyebrows

The country wants its people to produce manure from their own poop

North Korea has been encouraging citizens to use their own excrement to make manure, as the agriculture sector struggles with a shortage of fertilizer for crops, media reports claim.

According to a Daily NK report, “the entire country is being mobilized for manure production.” The report, citing a source in North Hamgyong Province, claimed residents had started “producing fertilizer from human waste” to fill the quotas of manure production, introduced by Pyongyang last week. 

The quotas range from 150 kilograms of manure for household to 500 kilograms for a state factory worker. Authorities even cut food market hours in January, which now work 3 to 5 in the afternoon instead of 2 to 5, so that people have “an extra hour to produce manure.

North Korea is suffering from a shortage of agricultural manure used as a substitute for crop fertilizer. The country used to buy the manure from China and South Korea, but Chinese imports were blocked after North Korea closed its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic in January 2020. In March 2021, Pyongyang also refused manure deliveries from South Korea to underline its demand for an end to US and UN sanctions. Now securing enough manure is considered the country’s number one “struggle” for 2022, reports state.

Fertilizer made from human excrement is not entirely out of the ordinary for North Korea. Radio Free Asia reported earlier this year that farmers were asked to contribute two liters of their urine each day to help produce compost.

Still, it may be difficult to count too much on ‘homemade’ manure – the country is severely short on food amid typhoons and the pandemic-induced border closure. Poor harvests combined with almost no deliveries from the outside led the nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to admit last summer that the situation with food in North Korea was “tense.” In October, a Reuters report citing analysts and a United Nations expert claimed the food crisis remained dire following poor harvests, and there were also reports of increased shipments of humanitarian aid from China.

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