North Korea exports 300,000 bottles of rice-based beer to China amid food crisis

North Korea exported over 300,000 bottles of rice-based beer to China in July, according to the latest trade data, a month after DPRK leader Kim Jong Un declared a “food crisis” and the need for emergency food distribution.

According to China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC), North Korea exported $39,604 worth of beer totaling 163,852 liters in July.

The exports appear to be 500ml glass bottles and 330ml cans of Taedonggang Beer No. 2, which is made using 30% rice along with hops and barley malt.

Images have recently surfaced online of Taedonggang Beer bottles with labels showing Pyongyang as the location of manufacture and with 2021 production dates.

Chinese e-commerce sites such as Taobao are now selling cases of the beer with reported production dates as recent as July 8.

While North Korea sold the products last month for an average price of $0.12 cents per 500ml bottle, most shops are selling them for over $3.30 each.

Prior to the pandemic, North Korea exported an average of 44,000 liters of beer to China per month in 2019, according to the GAC.

The Taedonggang Beer factory also claimed in 2019 that it had sold $2 million worth of beer to China in a single year.

Pyongyang has relied on China for imports of malt in the past, but recently, amid strict pandemic-related government restrictions on imports, the Taedonggang brewery has reportedly turned to domestic sources for some ingredients.

According to UN sanctions passed in December 2017, North Korea is prohibited from exporting “food and agricultural products,” the resolution only specifically covers fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts meaning beer exports are allowed.

North Korea’s food shortages have reached crisis levels, and inequalities have sharply widened ever since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the country to close its borders in January last year.

The reclusive nation will be short by about 860,000 tons of food this year, or about two months of normal demand, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated in a recent report.