North Koreans work in the fields near the North Korean city Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea imported more than 18,000 tons of Chinese grain products in September. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- North Korea may tout self-reliance in agriculture and industry, but a study suggests imports from China soared in September.
It could be a sign Pyongyang has no choice but to look outside for food that is relatively scarce in the country.
The volume of Chinese grains North Korea imported in September is the largest on record since Kim Jong Un fully assumed power in 2012, according to Kwon Tae-jin of GS & J Institute in South Korea.
Kwon's analysis of Chinese customs data shows North Korea imported 18,477 tons of Chinese grains in September, or $1.84 million worth of food, Voice of America reported Thursday.
That amount is more than all grain imports from January to August 2016 combined, according to the analysis.
The figure is also a year-on-year sixfold increase: In September 2015, North Korea imported 3,158 tons of grain.
In October, North Korea returned to lower levels of imports, purchasing 6,954 tons of grain, mostly rice, for distribution.
Rice constituted 14,000 tons of imports from January to August, but accounted for 16,000 tons of imported food. The value of the imported rice is about $990,000, Kwon said.
Flour imports increased 15-fold in September, compared to August, while starch imports doubled.
Bean and bean products are rarely imported from China, but in September North Korea imported 412 tons, the report stated.
Kwon said September's surge in grain imports indicates inventory had reached an all-time low in North Korea immediately before the harvest season.