KOREA, DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF* (18 February)
Currently, no main agricultural activities are underway. Winter wheat (and winter barley), some of the early cereals in the Double-cropping programme, were planted from end-September to mid-October and the area in 2004/05 is 70 080 hectares, only marginally increased from the previous year. Spring barley and early potatoes as spring crops will be sown in March and targeted areas in 2005 are 31 500 hectares and 99 500 hectares, respectively. Wheat and barley seed were in short supply due to widespread flooding in June 2004 prior to harvesting. Some 224 tonnes of spring barley seed were recently procured through FAO for distribution to cooperative farms in 30 counties within the Cereal Bowl area on the western plains. There is an unusual lack of snow in many parts of the country in winter 2004/05, which could lead to low water levels in the reservoirs for irrigation purposes for spring and summer crops. However, in some areas there were reports of some good autumn rains in 2004.
Based on an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission of last November, paddy rice production in 2004 is estimated at 2.37 million tonnes, 5.6 percent up from the previous year as a result of favourable weather, improved irrigation facilities in the main Cereal Bowl region and increased application of fertilizer provided through international assistance. Total cereal production in 2004/05 (2004 main season crops and 2004/05 winter/spring crops), including potatoes in cereal equivalent and production from household gardens and sloping lands, is forecast at 4.235 million tonnes (milled basis), some 3 percent over 2003 production and the best harvest over the last ten years.
Despite the grain production recovery, domestic supply is expected to fall well below the minimum food needs and the country will again have to depend on external assistance as its capacity to import commercially remains highly constrained. The import requirement in 2004/05 was estimated at 897 000 tonnes, of which commercial imports were anticipated to cover only 200 000 tonnes.
Under EMOP 10141.03, WFP seeks 504 000 tonnes of food valued at US$202 million to feed 6.5 million of the most vulnerable North Koreans - including children, women and elderly people. In January and February 2005, WFP was able to feed all targeted beneficiaries with planned rations. Substantial new pledges will allow WFP to maintain this support through to May 2005 with the exception of oil that, due to delayed arrivals, has run out this month for beneficiaries on the west coast.
Public Distribution System (PDS) daily ration were reduced to 250 grams in January, earlier than expected. Usually the rations are reduced in March when the stocks of main harvest crops have been depleted and before the early crop harvest. The rations are the lowest since January 2001, but no increase is predicted until June. However, despite the decrease, WFP's 6.5 million beneficiaries are still able to meet their minimum food requirements provided that the pipeline is intact and distributions are timely.