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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

25 March 2008

Severe Food Shortage in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

In addition to long-standing economic constraints, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was severely affected by floods in 2007 and continues to suffer from serious food shortages. Based on the most recent Government estimates, total cereal production in 2007 is about 3 million tonnes (milled base, or 3.6 million tonnes unmilled), a significant reduction from the 4 million tonnes of the previous year and the five-year average of 3.7 million tonnes. The major cereal losses were in maize (650 000 tonnes less, or 33 percent down from the previous year) and in rice (400 000 tonnes less, or 25 percent down from the previous year). Potato production was estimated to have increased by 80 000 tonnes (in cereal equivalent) or 17 percent from the previous year. Soybean output also reportedly increased.

With this low 2007 production, the cereal deficit for the 2007/08 marketing year (November/October) is estimated at 1.66 million tonnes on the basis of a per caput cereal consumption close to the reference historical trend of some 170 kg per caput (including potato and soybeans). The country may again have to depend on external assistance as its capacity to import commercially remains limited by poor economic performance and recent increases in world food prices.

As a result of domestic food shortages, market prices in Pyongyang have increased significantly. By comparison to early 2007, current prices for both rice and wheat flour have doubled while maize prices have also risen substantially. The Public Distribution System (PDS), the main source of staple foods for the majority of the population, has reportedly suspended state food rations in its main grain-producing areas and reduced them even in the capital city. Winter wheat and spring barley are the current growing crops, but they account for a small share of total annual cereal production (some 10 percent). Winter wheat was sown from the end of last September to mid-October, while spring barley has been sown in March. Both crops are to be harvested in the second half of June. Current soil moisture is likely to be adequate due to heavy snow and rains during winter; warmer-than-normal weather has also prompted rapid greening of winter crops and planting of spring crops.

Cereal production in milled rice equivalent.
Imports for the 2007/08 marketing year (November/October) are a forecast based on the historical utilization trend.