Press Release 00/62 Joint FAO/WFP
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA BRACES FOR SEVENTH YEAR OF FOOD SHORTAGES
Rome, 16 November, 2000 -- Severe drought, typhoons, poor infrastructure and economic problems mean that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea) is facing its seventh consecutive year of food shortages, United Nations agencies warned today.
A joint Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme mission reports "a sizeable reduction" in rice and maize production in the year 2000. The rice crop alone is 31 percent lower, while maize output has fallen by 235,000 tonnes over last year.
North Korea will need to import 1,865,000 tonnes of cereals in 2000/2001 (November/October) to cover the deficit between the country's total cereal availability and the needs. That need is estimated to be 4.79 million tonnes.
In a country where the climate only allows for a single food-producing season (June-October), prolonged drought is the main culprit for the latest shortfall with average rainfall some 20-60 percent below average.
North Korea's severe shortages of electricity and fuel have exacerbated the emergency, drastically reducing the irrigation systems' ability to cope with the drought. The situation was further worsened in August and September, when typhoons Prapiroon and Saomai brought localized damage to crops.
"During field trips, the mission saw large numbers of people in harvested rice fields collecting rice spillage," noted the FAO/WFP report, "Increasing cultivation on fragile hill areas provided further evidence that the problem of hunger is far from over for DPRK."
The FAO/WFP mission, which visited North Korea from 14 to 21 October, also noted growing disparities in access to food between different sectors of North Korean society. The urban population, for example, lives far from the main sources of food production and is estimated to have 20-25 percent less cereal available per capita than individuals in rural areas.
"Over the short term, food aid will continue to play a major role in guaranteeing food security," concludes the joint report. But, medium-to long-term prospects will depend on North Korea's success in rehabilitating agricultural production, for which continued international assistance will be required.
North Korea will also need to rebuild its industrial exports so it can afford to import additional food.
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