North Korean potato farmers breathed a sigh of relief this month when they found out their monthly ration of the crop would be restored and not canceled as earlier reported. The announcement was soon met with confusion however when the workers in the northern Ryanggang Province found out that each of them would receive 560 kg—eight monthly rations-worth—of potatoes at once. Even a notorious eater like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might find it difficult to stomach that many carbs.
Residents in the key agricultural area of Taehongdan county had earlier been told that only teachers would be getting a monthly potato ration and the remaining crop would be sent to the capital city of Pyongyang for its privileged citizens. Instead, authorities seemed to change their minds in a quick turnaround and announced that each worker’s monthly ration was set at 70 kg and eight months-worth would be given at once.
For the farmers, who had been sent to the rural area to work the fields, the realization that food would be plenty was a huge relief since many had been planning for a tough winter with no potatoes. Relief turned to panic though as bicycles, pushcarts and every available vehicle was mobilized to collect the rations.
Although grateful for the turn in fate, many of the workers wondered why authorities even had the plan to cancel the ration in the first place. Some residents thought that this was just a ploy to appease the hard-working and underpaid farmers, whose discontent could lead to rebellion in the hermit kingdom.
Of course, most of the farmers’ main concerns had to do with the overwhelming amount of potatoes suddenly “gifted” to them. Storing and preserving 560 kg of potatoes, especially in the upcoming winter where they will freeze and become inedible, was daunting to the workers.
Many chose to sell as many potatoes as they could in local markets. At 600 won (US$4) for 1 kg, the uneaten potatoes could be a cash cow for poor farmers if the pesky capitalistic notion of supply and demand does not make the price sink even lower.
In the West, where the humble potato is either shunned by low-carb dieters or spelled incorrectly by former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle , most of us would not know what to do if 560 kg of potatoes were delivered at once. Let’s hope these North Koreans are more innovative!