Environment, Infrastructure & Energy

Kim Zeroes in on Fertilizer Production: The Latest Activity at the Hungnam Liquid Nutrient Fertilizer Factory

Key Findings

  • At Kim Jong-un’s appearance at the June 7 Politburo meeting, the first sighting of the leader since he attended the May 1 opening ceremony of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory following a 20-day disappearance, he emphasized the need to increase fertilizer production.
  • The latest undertaking at the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, one of North Korea’s oldest and largest chemical complexes, is the construction of a small “liquid nutrient fertilizer factory.”
  • Liquid fertilizer has some advantages such as ease of handling, application and blending, uniformity of application, starter and in-season application, etc.
  • The construction and future operation of this new liquid nutrient fertilizer factory is a further manifestation of the continuing efforts under Kim Jong-un to increase agricultural production by expanding and diversifying domestic fertilizer production capabilities.

During the past 10 years, North Korea has undertaken a number of modernization projects at the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, one of the nation’s oldest and largest chemical complexes. While the majority of these have been large undertakings such as the First- and Second-phase Lignite Gasification Plants in the western section of the complex, a number of smaller projects have also been undertaken. Most recently has been the construction of a small “liquid nutrient fertilizer factory.”

Satellite imagery shows that construction of the new factory (39.840678° 127.629147°), located in the eastern section of the plant, that had previously been involved in magnesia production, began during mid-October 2019 with the excavation and pouring of foundations. By May 2020 it was reported that the buildings were almost complete, heavy equipment was being installed and construction was moving forward steadily.1 A satellite image acquired on May 13, 2020 shows that the factory encompasses approximately 0.4 hectares and that while the exterior walls were essentially complete, the roofs on two buildings were still under construction.

An October 30, 2019 satellite image of the liquid nutrient fertilizer factory showing the project during the excavation and pouring of foundations. (Copyright © 2020 by Planet)
The liquid nutrient fertilizer factory under construction at the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, May 2020 (Rodong Sinmun)
The liquid nutrient fertilizer factory seen on May 13, 2020 showing the progress achieved during the previous seven months, but that the roofs of two buildings have yet to be completed. (Copyright © 2020 by MAXAR Technologies)

While there is little difference in the total amount of nutrients delivered by liquid and granular fertilizer for a specific type of crop, liquid fertilizer has some advantages such as ease of handling, application and blending, uniformity of application, starter and in-season application, etc.2 The construction and future operation of this new liquid nutrient fertilizer factory is a further manifestation of the continuing efforts under Kim Jong-un to increase agricultural production by expanding and diversifying domestic fertilizer production capabilities.

References

Show 2 Footnotes
  1. Kim Hak Chol, “Construction of Liquid Nutrient Fertilizer Factory,” Rodong Sinmun, May 4, 2020.
  2. “Pros and cons of granular and liquid fertilizers,” Michigan State University, December 29, 2019, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/pros_and_cons_of_granular_and_liquid_fertilizers.