Press Release 01/47 Joint FAO/WFP
FAO AND WFP: SEVERE SPRING DROUGHT WORSENS ALREADY PRECARIOUS FOOD SITUATION IN NORTH KOREA
Rome, 27 July - A spring drought that lasted in many places more than three months has seriously aggravated the already precarious food situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a joint special report issued today.
The two Rome-based agencies warned in the report in order to avert further hardship, food aid is "imperative," and they urged the international donor community to immediately provide more food to the country.
According to the report, the drought's effect on domestic food production is expected to have "dire consequences for the food security of the population" prior to the autumn harvest of the main rice and maize crops. The report is based on the findings of a joint crop and food supply assessment mission conducted from 23 June to 3 July.
A protracted dry spell between March and mid-June - the longest spring drought on record for many parts of the country - depleted rivers and reservoirs, and crippled irrigation systems. It delayed planting, forced the abandonment of large tracts of cultivated farmland, and drastically reduced agricultural yields.
"About ten percent of the planted area was estimated to have been abandoned and yields from the remaining areas were well below normal. Wheat and barley yields dropped to 0.85 tonnes per hectare against the usual 2 tonnes/ha, while potato yield was reduced to 3.77 tonnes/ha against the recent past average of 10 tonnes/ha," the report stated. "The production of these winter/spring crops, estimated at 172,000 tonnes, was sharply below the expected output of about 493,000 tonnes."
As a result, WFP and FAO said the North Korean government's Public Distribution System planned to reduce the individual daily ration to just 150 grammes for the remainder of the 2000/2001 marketing year (November/October), from the 215 grammes provided during the last eight months. The two agencies further warned that the cooperative farms which account for the bulk of domestic production might not be able to supply the distribution system with enough food to help it meet even this target.
Besides reducing the spring harvests, the pervasive drought degraded planting conditions for the main cereals and potato crops. "Some 45 percent of the maize crop was affected," the report said. The paddy crop appeared to be generally in good condition, however.
As a result of the smaller winter/spring season wheat, barley and potato harvests - traditionally vital sources of nutrition during the lean summer months - FAO and WFP reduced their previous estimates for the total production of cereals and potato in 2000/2001 from 2.92 million tonnes to 2.57 million tonnes.
Taking into account the cereal imports contracted and food aid already delivered or pledged by donors, the country faces at present a significant uncovered food deficit of 564,000 tonnes for the remaining four months of the 2000/2001 marketing year.
"With the winter/spring harvest seriously reduced and the new harvest several months away, additional imports and food assistance until the end of October will be imperative to avert further hardship," the agencies said. "Any significant shortfall in aid would pose a threat of a deepening food crisis in the country next year."
Given the unfavorable prospects for the main harvest in October, a large volume of food aid and concessional imports is also expected to be required in 2002.
WFP, the largest international aid agency in the country, this year aims to provide, mobilize and deliver more than one million tonnes of food to more than 7.6 million of the hungriest and most vulnerable people in the country. These include children in nurseries, kindergartens and schools, pregnant and nursing women, and the elderly.
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