FOOD SHORTAGES IN THE COMMUNIST BLOC (S-671)

Created: 7/15/1961

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off HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM ' "

RELEASE AS SANITIZED

FOOD SHORTAGES IN THE ffoffiNlST BLOC

The major countries oi the Communist Bioc continue to have serious food problems, although of widely varying kinds. In China and,ess serious degree, in North Vietnam food supplies hoveraloric intake level which provides the bare requirements to sustain life and which are equally hazardous in terms of nutritional requirements. East Germany, near the other end of the spectrum, in caloric terms eatsas well as does Western Europe. However, chronicto provide supplies of quality foodstuffs in quantities desired by the populace and frequent fallings ln thesubstituteholesale distribution system keep the populationtate of disgruntlemcnt whichbecomes werious enough to cause the regime serious concern over the possibility of public disorder. Largely because of the weather in the USSR and China in the last two years, the various chronic food problems became more severe than usual in tho early part Spring harvests have widely eased this severity, but it is far from certain that the easing has been other than partial and temporary.

Communist China

With its enormous population, large but intensively farmed agricultural areas, low living standards, and an industry only Just beginning its modernization and expansion, Communistis sorely vulnerable to fluctuations ln agricultural output. Persistent food shortages9 reflect the seriousness of China's agricultural difficulties. Bad harvests90 were primarily duo to unfavorable weather over largeof the mainland, but official misinianagemont and peasant apathy compounded the losses. Grain production0 isto have been near7 level, when there were0 fewer people to feed. The resultant, short rations and poorly balanced diet brought widespread malnutrition and related health problems, and the regime seems to be faced for the first time with resentment and hostilityopulation previously characterized by docility and respect for authority.

Peiping's initial responso--in tho fall and winter oftwo bad harvests was to depress still further the already barely adequate rations of grain and other food-

stuffs to the population. Grain rations were cutlow-starvation level in some areas, and all over China rations of subsidiary foodstuffs such as meat, vegetables, andoil were sharply limited when available. Malnutrition increased markedly, however, with dropsy, berl-beri, and other nutritional ailments apparently reaching epidemic proportions. Characteristic of the testimony of refugees leaving the mainland at that time was the story told by two young but work-weary farmers from neighboring villages in Kwangtung. They said that the rationard-working man was hardly more thanound ofay, with noand that one out of every throe to four*people in their villages suffered swelling of the arms, legs or face, and "after this great weakness came, and for someyn alarmed regime hadeduction in working hours and the suspension of virtually all after-work political and social activities as stop-gap measures to reduce the population's caloric requirements.

The food situation began to improve somewhat inearly March, presumably because of the release offood stocks after sizeable purchases of foreignbeen made. According to an Indian doctor indditional quantities offoods such as bean curd, soybeans, andto appear on the market in Peiping By mid-April, this source noticed fewermalnutrtion and some improvement in the generalof the population. ongrom Amoy and Hofei cite an im-

provement in tnethose cities after February.

, Western diplomat in

Peiping has stated that in December and Januarywere crowded with patients suffering fromthat the situation improved considerably afterong Interrogations

of recent refugees from Kwangtung and otner parts of the mainland reportedly also indicate that signs of malnutrition have now largely disappeared. ong Kong, C)

It appears that, for the moment at least, Peiping has brought the problem of malnutrition under control. factors wouldombination of special medical

treatment (one refugee from Kwangtung reports that beginning in January special medical teams visited production teams in his locale everyays to treat cases of malnutrition)

, exemption from heavy work for thosesymptoms, generally decreased work and more rest, and maintenance of minimum rations for the general population.

Ration levels remain low, however, and the long-run food picture is at best no brighter than at this time last year. The generally weakened condition of the population,in .rural areas, together with sagging morale could wellignificant impact on farm production in the coming months. The increased activity required during the busy farm season, now well under way, and any drives to increasecould wreak havoc with this balance.

It is still too early to assess crop prospects1 with any degree of confidence. The winter wheat crop in thefirst important crop of theseverely damaged by drought and probably was worse than last year's poor one. In the South, however, harvesting of the first rice crop is now under way and independent weather data plus reports from observers indicate it may be normal to good. Planting of the lateprovide the bulk of the annual harvest, has just started. Much will depend on the weather these next two months, andesser but important extent on the attitude of the peasants and the efficiency of the communes which were overhauled last winter. Cropas of the present remain subject to change.

Peiping has had trouble maintaining discipline andin rural areas, however. Few refugees,'whetheror country, have failed to charge local cadres willliving markedly better than the local populace,impossible demands as regards productionrhymes and slogans mocking the Communists are nowreported by refugees.

This disgruntlement has manifested itself in open opposition to authority. Reports of thefts of food from the fields wore numerous during the winter. illage in Kwangtung, for example, pilferage of foodstuffs and livestock had been on the increase from the end0 through Tho authorities reportedly had made little effort to stop it and the farmers had ln turn become more and more darlne in their stealing.

Agriculture clearly continues to cause the regime great concern. Chou En-lai reportedlyroup of businessmen in late June that another bad crop is expected this year. (Stateong Kong,) With some three months still left of the growing season, however, the regime almost certainly does not know what the annual harvest will be, but the remark reflects apprehension that it may be bad. Official weather releases have emphasized bad weather, not only in the North but in some rice areas to the South and Southwest. Independent weather data bears these out to some extent, but it is unclear whether the regime'scan be taken at face value.

The food situation on the mainland remains serious, and prospects for the immediate future hold little promise of significant improvement. Ration levels remain barely adequate to .maintain strength if not health. Peiping's earlier hopes for making some recoveryood early crop appear to have been dashed, certainly in the North. Conditions inand Southern China may ease, however, with the first rice crop beginning to reach the markets there. If later harvests are not at least normal to good, the regime will continue in the gripelentless cycle of substandard rations, reduced energy among the population, loweron the farm and in the factory, and less chance in turn of any marked improvement in rations.

North Vietnam

North Vietnam experienced serious food shortages in the spring1 in the wakeoor harvest the previous year. One observer in Hanoi reported in late May having seeneven schoolon the street fromand Ho Chi Minh himself reportedly apologised to thecorps for having to endure shortages. (State,5) The shortages early this year were due primarily to bad weather affecting last year's crop, but stepped-up socialization drives in the rural areas contributed to the shortfalls. Prolonged drought damaged last year's springand floods and insects affected the fall harvest,food production toercent below the level of theyear.

Por capita consumption of food in North Vietnam this spring was estimated to bo the lowestith per capita food availability considerably below prewar levels. The food situation is normally tight during the spring months, when stocks from the previous year are running low and the next harvest not yet in. The shortages this spring areto have boon much more serious than usual, however. The North Vietnamese government' admitted the seriousness of the situationommunique published onay, the state of agriculture and admitting that Insufficient attention had been given to the food problem, tho communique sought to enlist popular cooperation by promising the peasants they could retain or sell privately tho grain produced in ox-cons of government quotas.

The crisis appears to have been weathered, however, and prospocts for this year's harvest arc good. Hanoi has expressed optimism, and there have been no reports of bad woather thus far. This year's early harvest is believed to have beenbetter than last year's, and acreage of summer crops has beenthan doubled for corn and sweet If normal to good woather conditions prevail, total grain production1 mayillion tons, as good as the previous record set9 and well above last year's 4

million tons.

Such positivegrowing conditions and

expanded acreage must be weighed against peasant attitudes, however. Peasant disgruntlement over tho regime's heavy-handed efforts at collectivization reachedlaring into open opposition in the wake of the year-end food shortages. In one instance, farmerskilled the local commissar, burned food warehouses, and then prevented firemen from putting out the fires. Letters have appeared in the local press complaining about inadequate rations and black marketing, and even articles claimingwere resisting taxes and grain sales to the state. (State,5) The regime may continue toproblems if it insists on further reforms in rural areas, where collectivization is bringing considerablefrom tht- peasants.

North Korea

Unlike its two Asian Bloc companions, North Korea has evidently not boon troubled to any serious extent by food difficulties in the past two years. atered-downof Communist China's Leap Forward program for agriculture was adopted in North Korea ln8 and, as ln China, brought grain output9 to the lowest level in recent yoars. Although definitive information is admittedly limited, food importsmall population long used to meager fare apparently enabled the regime to get through the following winter and spring without appreciable discontent. Policy reversals plus favorable weather0 combined to produce what may haveecord grain harveststimated atillion tons. Weather conditions so far this yoar have been favorable, and no disruptive organizational experiments appear to have been undertaken in rural areas. PTospocts appear good for1 crop, and it may reach or exceed slightly the record tonnage brought in last year.

Mountainous terrain, saline and low fertility soils,elatively short growing season combine to limit North Korea': agricultural potential. Priority Is being accorded toprograms, and the regime is devoting increased attention to the use of chemical fertilizers. There is probably some margin for increasing agricultural output relative to pastbut North Korea will neverignificant producer of foodstuffs. Its economy is geared to industrial development, for which it is geologically and topographically suited, and progress with industrialization programs should make possible the minimum satisfaction of food wants froa domesticor imports. The Korth Korean diet for the present,remains low-calorie, monotonous, but adequate.

USSK

Unlike Communist China the USSR is notip-and-tuck battle with widespread malnutrition, nor has it been for many years. Rather, the Soviet food industry is faced with two problems: How to increase the qualityread and potatotos" diet and how to realize the

iSttcsetMoscow. In contrast to the90 harvests prospects thus far this year look good.

Soviet agricultural production under the influence of good weather and Khrushchev's agricultural programs incroased aboutercent3 Today, though production failed to increase during the past two years, the caloricof the average Soviet is roughly equivalent to hisin the US. Overercent of the Soviet caloric intake, however, consists of grain and potatoes. Further, the fact.that there has been statistical manipulation by farm officials and ruralhas decried such practices in recentdoubt on all agricultural records and suggests that thisercent mayow estimate. 7 Khrushchev called for thematch US production per capita in milk and butter8 and meat. MoreKhrushchev called agriculture to surpass the US per capita5 and the Seven-Tear Plan goals were based on this desire. Following the first two years of the Seven-Year Plan, which saw Soviet agricultural production still at8 level,as elaborate as any in Soviet hlstory--were made for1 season. The agricultural plenum in January, whichajor agricultural reorganization and made fulsome promises to raise agriculture's low priority, also revealed that two successive poor harvests had taken significant toll. For example, onanuary Khrushchev admitted that millions of sheep were lost from disease and malnutrition during tho precedingbut rather weakly reiterated his belief that the USSR could overtake the US in per capita production in fivef "the work can be organized." In April the Soviet Statistical Bureau revealed that meat production at the State slaughter houses had droppedercent over the same period last year. While this figure isproduction90ove that8 and ln the first9 production was unusuallyhave bocn plenty of signs that many cities this past winter and spring experienced shortages of livestock products.

shortages ln

Yaroslavl and hcaicincrs with relatives in Simferopolpleas for food parcels.

oke floated arouno mohcow ; Kuua, uu,

uyei (Cuba's on, meat's off).

4 April' the

newspaper Soviet Russia reported that the livestockwas deterioratingumber of areas and that meat and milk production was "significantly less than lastnpril the Soviet farm newspaper reported that mass slaughtering of young calves was causing "irreparable damage to Soviet cattle breeding." As lateay Khrushchev

told the Georgianstop talking about it to stop doing your sheep From Astrakhan Itthat there were periodic absences of broad andMay And June and that no meat and little fish wasfrompril toin ouch open

criticism of Khrushchev.

A visitor to Khabarovsk late in Hay rcportea tna; the central market had only snail amounts of garlic and onion greens, potatotes, fish, entrails,

v bread, beer, and ersatz

This latter calls to mind the Soviet cartoon published recently inaiter Is asking "how do you like your cutlet" and the customer answers "With neat." istinguished American visitor to Moscow wasarty secretary In Tambov Oblast had cotnnltted suicide because of the poor food conditions there. (State,

Prospects for Soviet agriculture1 appear better than average. An unusually mild winteravorable spring shouldood winter grain crop in the European USSB, and larger herds and better feed supplies pointomewhat better year for the livestock Industry Prospects for spring sown grain, however, are still uncertain,In tho important New Lands area where soil moisture reserves arc low. Weather during the remainder of the growing season willritical factor.

Despite the favorable signs, the regime is "running scared." Soviet newspapers continue to focus attention on agricultural needs and are critical of the apparently slow progress being made in tho reorganization*. Everywhere in the press thoro is the note of caution against over-optimisra,

uccessful year the regime still faces the problems created by fundamental weaknesses in theirventurc--low priority for agriculture relative to industry, severe natural restrictions, and doctrinal biases. Soviet agriculture has plenty of capability for Improvement and the future will see improvements in the Soviet diet. But as the average Soviet citizen comes to expectthe regime, particularly Khrushchev, has led him to expect more--he complains more and is less complacent when local shortages occur, however, temporary, as happened iir tho spring. The regime, in turn, will be

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faced with the realization that paper competitions with the West are not quite the same thing as food on the table. Khrushchev, in his speech to military academy graduatesuly, after giving in groat detail his views of the manner and timing of the USSR's race to surpass US industry, hedged on the agricultural competition with the mild statement that "we could quote similar figures with regard to the prospects of agricultural development on our two it is to his credit that he didn't try.

European Satellites

East Germany and Czechoslovakia are the only European Satellites which admit to difficulties with food supplies. However, Poland had meat and dairy products shortages which it solvesy allowing market operations to set the price level, and meat shortages have been reportedin Bulgaria and in Hungary. These shortages, like those in the USSR, are not significantutritional point of view. In terms of the effect on populations, how-over, the food shortages in Eastern Europe are morethan those in the USSR.

Difficulties in meeting the demands for qualityin East Germany are so apparent that they are openly admitted. Onuno, K. H. Gerstner of the press office of the GDR Council of Ministers flatly admitted that "demand cannot bo met fully for all foodstuffs and industrialarlier, local officials had made many similar admissions. Onune the Schwerin area Communist Party Secretaryblamed inadequate feed supplies for "plan lagsin milk and meat." Oneipzig paperthat the party secretary for that area had explainedocal meeting the reasons for the food shortagos,butter.

More recently, the problem and its solution have been discussedational level. Onuly,h plenary meeting of the GDR Communist Party was told that "it is only possible to import consumer goods and foodstuffs on the scale to which goods can be exported in exchange" and that

urther Increase outside the plan in the import of butter and meat is Impossible." Additionally, while the East German regime still resortsort of legalistic charade to deny that rationing is now necessary and practiced,uly Paul Verncr, Communist Party Secretary for East Berlin was reported by the official East German press to have said that "it Is planned to provide potato rationing cards bearing theHtorc's stamp and to cutmall section of the potato rationing card which will remain in the store, enabling the store toetter control over its circle of steady customers." Possession of the card was also to be theto butter purchases.

In Czechoslovakia, the problem is similar to but less severe than that in East Germany, partly becauseess demanding public attitude and partly because of slightly better agriculturalevertheless, tho regime is concerned about the problem. Onarch, Lubomlrormor Minister of Agriculture admitted that "agriculture is not fully satisfying the needs of the people." The Journal Nova Svobods (Ostrava) onay deftlyortion of tlie problem with the statement that "tho greatest worries wc have concorning the production of pork are causedhortage of pigs." une review of agricultural problems In Zcmdelske Noviny blamed shortages in part on productionJune output was behind plan byercent for beef,orcont for pork,ercent for mllk--and in part on "unovon supply" which is Communist Jargon for theoperation of the distribution system.

Th-'iiivorablf food supply situation Is Bsot OarSuUJ and Czechoslovakia stems fron peasant apathy followingand from shortages of fodder which havelivestock production. Also, however, bothnormally import large quantities of meat from other bloc countries and Soviet and Chinese production difficulties0 have reduced such imports from these countries, The number of workers and their incomes have been graduallyduring the past few years. Much of tho Increased income lias gone Into non-food consumer goods, but at the same time demand for animal protein foods has increased. Thus the stagnation ln livestock production and inability orof the govummonts sufficiently to increase Imports have brought on the current supply difficulties.

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The other Satellites also have had difficulties lntho availability of livestock products. Poland wenteat shortage, still has not regaineder-capita level of consumption, but has controlled consumer demand through higher prices. Local shortages of butter occurred In Poland during tho first quarter1 duorop in milk production and larger exports of butter. Hungary and Bulgaria were reported to have had shortages of meat earlier this year. Hungarian officials stated in March that no improvement could bo expected ln pork supplies this year. Howover, in all of those Instances meat was exported at the expense of local consumption. Those Satellltos did not openly admit shortages of food.

Because weathor has gonerally been favorable, crop prospects for the European Satellites1 are good, and early crops aro easing, though possibly only temporarlly, the food supply problems. Precipitation to date has been ample for good plant growth, although in several cases, particularly ln Czechoslovakia and East Germany, rainfall has been too ample. Tho harvest of small grains (wheat, rye, barloy,hich began in mid-June ln Albania and is moving northward as the season progresses, is expected to exceed both that0 and the average. While prospects for the major fall crops (potatoes, sugar beets, corn) currently appear good, production will depend upon weatbor ln the interim before the harvest.

CIA/ORR

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