Seoul, Dec 6 (IANS): The cost of groceries and daily necessities in North Korea is estimated to be rapidly increasing in the face of a prolonged border lockdown to stave off the Covid-19 pandemic, the Unification Ministry in Seoul said on Monday.
The North has imposed a strict border control since last year, which is believed to have taken a toll on its economy already hit by crippling sanctions, reports Yonhap News Agency.
"North Korea is experiencing chronic food shortages with around 1 million tons of foods falling short every year," Ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo told a press briefing.
"As the coronavirus-driven border lockdown has prolonged, it is likely to be having difficulties in securing necessary foods from abroad."
The North was seen preparing to reopen its land border with China, with South Korea's spy agency estimating its cross-border rail services could resume as early as in November.
But the spread of the omicron variant is apparently delaying the reclusive regime's planned border reopening.
"Though we do have limits in having access to accurate information, the government's estimation is that the volatility of foods and necessities prices is growing (in North Korea) and some items are witnessing a rapid price hike," Lee said.
Yet, referring to experts' assessments the North's crop output could improve this year due to better weather conditions, she said the government will continue monitoring its situation in line with a review on the need for a humanitarian cooperation.