Bangkok, 15 Sep 2011 -- More than six million vulnerable people are facing food deficits this and next year as chronic food insecurity continues in DPR Korea, FAO said today at a press briefing in Bangkok.
“Compared to 2009/2010, today’s food rations handed out by the government under the Public Distribution System have declined by 50 percent,” Hiroyuki Konuma pointed out during a press briefing in Bangkok today, upon his return from a visit to DPR Korea 12 to 14 September 2011.
“High malnutrition rates prevail among children aged under five, with stunting reportedly running at 32 percent, and underweight at 18 percent.”
One million tonne food deficit
As reported in the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) August 2011 report for DPR Korea, FAO estimates that the country needs 5.3 million tonnes of staple food to feed its population this year.
However, it is forecast that domestic cereals production this year might reach 4.3 million tonnes, resulting in a likely food deficit of one million tonne.
Affected by rising international prices for maize and other factors, planned government commercial imports of cereals this year have recently been reduced to less than 200 000 tonnes from the original planned 325 000 tonnes.
At the same time, WFP and bilateral food aid pledges and deliveries have also declined considerably.
“There is an urgent need for the international community to step up support to humanitarian assistance to DPR Korea, while at the same time advancing medium- to long-term activities to increase food production to meet domestic demand,” Mr Konuma stated.
Agriculture in dire state
A wide range of factors are hindering the country to drastically increased food production.
Among these factors, the most prominent ones are limited arable land, lack of sufficient production inputs such as fertilizers, low quality of seeds (only 13 percent of which meets international standards) and high post-harvest losses estimated at 15 percent on average.
In addition, farmers lack access to modern agricultural infrastructures, new technologies and opportunities for capacity building.
Support from FAO and UNDP
With funding provided by the UN Development Pogramme, FAO is embarking on a series of three years technical cooperation programmes in the areas of seed development especially rice and vegetables, post-harvest losses prevention, and the promotion of an agricultural information system.
With a combined budget of approximately US$5 million, these programmes aim to increase domestic food production and promote food security.
Early October 2011, FAO and WFP are fielding a joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to DPR Korea which will stay in the country until 19 October 2011.