FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

SPECIAL REPORT : FAO/WFP CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY ASSESSMENT MISSION TO THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA

29 June 1999

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1. OVERVIEW

The combination of natural disasters from 1995 to 1997, which crippled the agricultural sector, and deepening economic slowdown since the early 1990s which has eroded national capacity to import food, essential inputs and energy, have severely undermined food security in DPR Korea. Unfortunately, efforts by the country to redress the chronic food problems through meticulous planning and intensive management of agriculture have had limited long term benefits in view of the scale of the problem and its root causes. Irrespective of the incredibly high level of emphasis and care that is given to food production nationally, food output this year, even under an optimistic weather scenario, will remain well below needs as productivity remains highly constrained by lack of land and sufficient fertiliser and energy for mechanisation and irrigation on which the sector depends heavily. In view of the scale and depth of the problem, and in order to help the country attain greater food security, both short and long term measures, with international support, continue to be required. In addition to ongoing emergency food assistance to meet immediate needs, it is imperative that international support be provided for recovery and rehabilitation in agriculture to ensure longer term food security.

In view of the ongoing concerns about the country's food supplies, and as the country enters the lean period, a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Mission was fielded to DPR Korea from 1-8 June to review an earlier assessment made last October at the time of the main harvest. In keeping with such assessments, the findings of the Mission are based on discussions with Government Ministries and Departments, UN and bilateral agencies and NGOs based in the country as well as on field visits to selected areas. On this occasion, in the limited time available, field visits were made to four provinces, namely Nampo, South Pyongan, and South and North Hwanghae of which the last three are principal agricultural provinces, located in the country's bread basket in the south west. In addition to assessing the state of foodcrops, a number of farm and industrial households were also visited to evaluate consumption patterns and coping strategies.

The Mission reiterates concerns raised by earlier assessments, particularly regarding declining nutritional standards. Large-scale food shortages have resulted in chronic nutritional problems in the population at large, which may have long term irreversible consequences. A nutrition survey last year, indicated that moderate and severe stunting, affected approximately 62 percent of children surveyed, while the incidence of moderate and severe underweight, or low weight for age was approximately 61 percent. The incidence of stunting is likely to remain high, irrespective of remedial nutritional actions now, though nutritional supplements could reduce wasting which is also widely observed. Although the 1998 nutrition survey provided valuable insight, there is still need to further verify the extent and depth of the nutrition problem, to pinpoint specific remedial actions. In view of this, the Mission underlines the need for a more comprehensive nutrition survey.

As food problems become chronic, it is becoming increasingly important that, in addition to cereals which have been the main component of food aid so far, foods providing essential amino and fatty acids and micronutrients be included to counter nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, it is imperative that international food assistance be further diversified to include a higher provision of oils and proteins.

The Mission also observed significant differences in food consumption. Some population groups, such as families receiving international food assistance and/or agricultural support, are in a better position to cope with food shortages than people in mountainous areas and in families of industrial workers, especially in non-agricultural areas. The income of these groups from productive activities has dropped in recent years and they have little recourse to meaningful coping strategies. Such families have hitherto depended almost entirely on PDS1 rations. As food distributions ceased in April 1999, they have had to rely on alternative foods which have limited nutritional value. Moreover, the capacity of these groups to procure food in farmers' markets is highly limited, either because they are in non-agricultural areas and/or have limited resources to procure sufficient quantities. In view of these differences, the Mission expresses serious concern for the nutritional wellbeing of the population in areas in the North East of the country which are industrial and have limited agriculture. Although WFP is responding to these concerns by targeting more beneficiaries in the north-east and increasing rations, beneficiary cover and food for work programmes in these areas, future targeting needs to be refined further to reflect geographical and demographic factors.

Based on estimates of rice and maize production in 1998 made by the last mission in October, and taking into account barley, wheat and potato2 production from this year's double crop, 1998/99 cereal availability has been revised to 3.78 million tonnes, about 9 percent above the initial estimate. Against this, utilisation needs, including food, feed and other uses (seed and waste) are assessed at 4.823 million tonnes, which leaves an import requirement of 1.04 million tonnes for the year. Of this requirement, it is estimated that commercial imports over the marketing year will remain unchanged at 300 000 tonnes. Food aid imports, already delivered and in the pipeline, amount to a further 642 000 tonnes. This leaves an uncovered import requirement of approximately 98 000 tonnes.

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2. EARLY PROSPECTS FOR 1999 CROP PRODUCTION

In addition to chronic fertiliser and energy constraints in recent years, agriculture in DPR Korea is naturally limited by the amount of land available for food production and the climate which essentially restricts the country to only one principal agricultural season per year. This extends roughly to 150-180 frost-free days from May to October, during which most rainfall is received in the three months spanning June to August. Indeed, the performance of rainfall during these months will be of immense importance, not only because of the effect this will have on crops but also because natural disasters in recent years (floods and drought) occurred during these months. Uneven distribution and unreliability of rainfall makes irrigation necessary, though this year, as in the recent past, severe energy shortages will limit operations in many lift irrigation systems that rely on electricity for pumping.

The short growing season and risk of early frosts require careful timing of critical operations, such as rice and maize transplanting and, where feasible, planting of winter cereals. With respect to management, the Mission observed that the level of crop husbandry was of a very high standard, reflecting intensive efforts by the government and the farming population to optimise domestic food production. Other positive steps taken by the Government to enhance food production include; (i) prioritising agriculture in development planning, (ii) prioritising food production in the allocation of resources, especially energy; (iii) collaborating closely with UN and other international agencies such as the EU, in developing appropriate strategies to enhance food production and reduce environmental damage, through programmes such as AREP3, double cropping and food for work schemes; (iv) introducing greater crop diversification, for example, potatoes this year, to reduce the adverse effects of mono cropping of cereals; (v) development of new rice varieties considered more fertiliser responsive; (vi) developing the use of microbial fertilisers to reduce dependence on chemical fertilisers; and (vii) encouraging rearing of small livestock on extensive systems to reduce competition for grains for feed. In respect to the last of these, goat and duck production is being particularly encouraged, due to the significant decline in large livestock like cattle, which previously were intensively reared, and competed for grain. The Mission also noted that the ruminants observed appeared to be grossly under-nourished. Together with international interventions, therefore, national measures have also been invaluable in reducing the scale of human suffering.

Soils are poor (pH 5-7, organic matter 0.5%), and because of mono-cropping, require increasing doses of fertiliser to attain similar levels of output. Again, although the use of organic fertilisers is being heavily emphasized, and has beneficial long term effects, the overall effect is limited given the present state of soils and plant needs. The risk of erosion in uplands is high and some observers have noted that problems may be further exacerbated by continuing cultivation (in desperate need to produce food) and foraging by an increasing population of goats.

A summary of average climatic conditions and principal cropping patterns is indicated in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Crop calendar and Agro-climatic patterns1

 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Rainfall (mm)
14.1
12.5
28.3
53.2
62.5
90.9
281.7
247.9
109.1
42.2
36.7
21.3
Evaporation (mm)
41
50
98
155
220
175
173
155
117
101
57
45
Avg. Temp. (° C)
-4.2°
-3.0°
+2.4°
+9.3°
+14.7°
+19.4
+23.2°
+23.4°
+19.2°
+12.8°
+5.4°
-2.0°
Sunshine (hrs.) _
188
200
227
233
264
240
176
209
230
226
161
149
Rice
   
S
T
       
H
   
Maize
     
S
T
     
H
     
Winter Wheat2
           
H
 
S
     
Winter Barley2
           
H
 
S
     
Spring Wheat
   
S
   
H
           
Spring Barley
   
S
   
H
           
Potatoes
     
S
S
S / H
 
H
H
     
Vegetables
   
S
S
S H
S H
H
S H
H
H
   

1 long-term average data from Onchon South Pyongan Province (Average rainfall distribution is national taken from earlier FAO/WFP assessments)
2 Sowing of winter barley and wheat is undertaken in Sept/Oct, after which the crop over-winters till the following spring, when it emerges for harvest in June/July.
S = Sowing; T = Transplanting ; H = Harvesting.
First frost of the season: 24th October.
Last frost of the season: 10th April.

2.1 Rainfall

In keeping with recent years, which have been marked by El Nino and La Lina weather effects in the region, rainfall in the run up to the main season has been erratic and below normal. Though below average rainfall during the months between January and May will not affect main season crops as much as rainfall between the beginning of June and the end of the rainy season in August, it did adversely affect soil moisture levels for the double crops of barley and wheat, which will result in some reduction in yields, compared to those envisaged by the Mission last year. See Figure 1.

Source: Agricultural Commission

2.2 Fertilisers

The intensive system of agriculture practised, which has necessitated continuous cereal-based production, has left soils highly depleted in natural nutrients. Soils have not been sufficiently "rested" through fallowing or planting with alternative fertility-enhancing crops such as legumes. Although natural fertilisers are applied, they would be more effective if used with (reduced) chemical fertilisers and crop rotations in integrated plant nutrient systems. Such systems, however, are essentially long-term measures and need to be developed further in accordance with the country's resource base and its specific needs. To meet immediate food needs, the country remains heavily reliant on chemical fertilisers, the production and import of which have declined markedly due to economic constraints. Indeed, though double cropping allows additional food to be produced, the fertiliser demand by subsequent maize and rice crops is higher, which compounds the need for more fertilizer.

In the absence of accurate soil analysis data, the Mission bases estimates of fertiliser requirements on information supplied by the Agriculture Commission. The Commission estimates annual fertiliser requirement at around 700 000 tonnes of the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK). This year, the Government estimates the following availability:

Based on nutrient quantities, the amount of distributed and pipeline fertiliser would provide 133 000 of N, 16 000 tonnes of P and 14 000 tonnes of K, or a total of 163 000 tonnes of NPK. Although this suggests a slight improvement in availability compared to 1997 and 1998, it only represents around a quarter of the annual requirement estimated by the Agriculture Commission. The Mission noted, however, that news reports made available suggested that negotiations were underway for a further 200 000 tonnes of unspecified fertiliser to be supplied to DPR Korea in bilateral transactions, though no timeframe was provided. The Agricultural Commission was not aware of such negotiations and did not include the fertiliser amount in the projections provided. Fig 2 indicates the relative decline in NPK use since 1989.

The Government also reports that the 1999 target area for maize has been reduced considerably, from around 629 000 hectares in 1998 to 496 000. The main reason given is a large-scale shift, in poor maize yielding areas, to potatoes which have increased from an average of around 40 000 hectares in the past to 170 000 hectares this year. The Mission has however requested further clarification as most potatoes observed were cultivated in combination with maize, in areas where maize could still be cultivated after the potato harvest in mid/late June. The situation will be reviewed at the time of the next assessment planned for September/October. Pests and diseases were not an important problem so far this season, though the risk of potato blight remains. In general, however, blight at this stage in crop development is unlikely to have a significant impact on yield.

Undisplayed Graphic

Source: Fertiliser plants, Agricultural Commission


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3. 1999 DOUBLE CROPPING PROGRAMMES AND POTATOES

In view of the limited scope for expanding food output, a joint programme by UN agencies and the Government was introduced in 1996 to develop double crops of winter wheat and spring barley, in an attempt to augment domestic food production. The objective of the programme is to make optimal use of the period between early March, when winter thaw occurs, and May/June when planting of summer paddy and maize need to be completed. The programme was launched initially for spring barley production and expanded subsequently in 1998 to include autumn/winter wheat and barley cultivation. Results of the 1997 and 1998 programmes were generally positive as a result of which the area under double crops was expanded in 1999 to include crop diversification mainly through potatoes, and to a lesser extent pulses and vegetables. In addition to these crops the use of legumes in rotation or as a mixed crop is seen as being particularly advantageous in view of fertiliser shortages and the relatively poor health of soils.

3.1 Spring Barley

For the 1999 programme, a total of 3 000 tonnes of spring barley seed (Red Sun 3), 2 268 tonnes of NPK and 5 035 tonnes of urea were provided under the UN Consolidated Interagency Appeal. The total cost of the inputs was around US$1.9 million.

The seeds provided were of good quality and were received in time, though there were delays in the delivery of fertilisers in parts. The programme was undertaken on 23 300 hectares in 400 co-operative farms in 10 provinces. Fuel, and hence irrigation, constraints meant that crops were almost entirely dependent on rainfall. In general, the 1998/99 winter was milder and the spring less wet than normal. There was, therefore, some reduction in yield, compared to projected levels by the Mission last year. Till the end of May, no significant outbreak of any disease or army-worm were reported. With an average yield of 2.0 tonnes per hectare, a total of 46 600 tonnes of barley is expected to be produced in the country. The FAO project-supported area of barley itself represents approximately 44 percent of total barley area in the country. In addition the Government supplied 1 660 tonnes of barley seed from local sources for planting in 92 co-operative farms, where the project only supplied fertiliser. The total area under spring barley in 1999, therefore, is estimated at 52 860 hectares, providing some 106 000 tonnes. Table 2 shows the breakdown.

Table 2: 1999 Barley area and production

Donor
Seed provided (tonnes)
Estimated area planted (ha)
Estimated production @ 2.0
t / ha
Norway + Sweden + WFP
3 000
15 000
30 000
DPRK for FAO
1 660
8 300
16 600
UNDP
837
4 185
8 370
DG VIII + ACT
650
3 250
6 500
DG VIII + Swiss
155
775
1 550
Local sources
4 270
21 350
42 700
Total
10 572
52 860
105 720

Source
: Various Agencies.

3.2 Winter Wheat

Winter wheat was planted on some 62 900 hectares, with an estimated average yield of 3 tonnes per hectare, giving total production of 188 700 tonnes.

3.3 Potatoes

To meet food shortages, this year the Government, with international support, has strongly promoted the cultivation of potatoes. As a result, some 170 000 hectares were planted, compared to an average of around 40 000 hectares in past years. Due to inadequate fertiliser and irrigation and poor seeding methods, average yields are estimated at around 10 tonnes/ha, providing approximately 1.7 million tonnes in aggregate.

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4. FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION

The FAO/WFP Mission last October estimated 1998/99 cereal production at 3.48 million tonnes, including an estimate of some 325 000 tonnes from the 1998/99 double winter wheat and barley crop. Mission estimates now suggest that the gross amount of wheat and barley will amount to around 294 000 tonnes, from which the seed requirement for next year's planting and losses must be deducted. Allowing for these deductions, the amount available for consumption is estimated at approximately 255 000 tonnes. In addition, some 1.7 million tonnes of potatoes will be produced, which amounts to around 1.53 million tonnes net of seed4 and losses. In cereal (energy or calorie) equivalent5 this amount of potatoes would provide around 383 000 tonnes. In reviewing the food situation, therefore, these revised estimates have been taken into consideration.

Comprehensive figures on cereal imports are not available, but identifiable commercial imports from November 1998 through April 1999 are estimated at approximately 175 000 tonnes (principally wheat), including 75 000 tonnes of grain indicated in official grain export statistics from China. Although the Ministry of Procurement and Food Administration indicates that there are no further grain imports currently in the pipeline, the Mission assumes that at least a further 75 000 tonnes of imports will come from China, during the current marketing year. There are also reports that China is to provide DPR Korea with 150 000 tonnes of bilateral food assistance, but as these reports remain unconfirmed, no allowance has been made in the revised food balance.

Food aid deliveries from 1 November 1998 to 31 May 1999 include 465 120 tonnes of cereals, compared to 328 173 tonnes during the same period in the previous year. Scheduled (pipeline) cereal food aid deliveries from 1 June to 31 October 1999 are expected to amount to a further 176 600 tonnes.

The resulting flow of cereals to those dependent on the Public Distribution System (PDS) is indicated in Table 3, while Figure 3 compares distributions this year with 1997/98. This includes both domestic and international (aid) inputs over the period November 1998 to April 1999, at which time general food distributions are reported to have stopped pending the supply of additional cereals.

Table 3: Rice/Maize Distribution Through the PDS Nov 1998- April 1999 (tonnes)

 
Nov-98
Dec-98
Jan-99
Feb-99
Mar-99
Apr-99
Total
Pyongyang
23 700
23 700
15 800
15 800
11 800
2 400
93 200
Nampo
5 500
5 500
3 700
3 700
2 700
600
21 700
Kaesong
1 800
1 800
1 200
1 200
900
200
7 100
N.Pyongan
14 300
14 300
9 500
9 500
7 000
1 500
56 100
S.Pyongan
19 500
19 500
1 300
1 300
9 700
2 000
53 300
N.Hwanghae
8 300
8 300
5 500
5 500
4 100
800
32 500
S.Hwanghae
9 600
9 600
6 400
6 400
4 800
1 000
37 800
Kangwon
8 000
8 000
5 400
5 400
4 000
900
31 700
N.Hamgyong
14 800
14 800
9 800
9 800
7 300
1 500
58 000
S.Hamgyong
17 200
17 200
11 500
11 500
8 600
1 800
67 800
Ryanggang
4 600
4 600
3 100
3 100
2 300
500
18 200
Chaggang
7 700
7 700
5 100
5 100
3 800
800
30 200
Total
135 000
135 000
78 300
78 300
67 000
14 000
507 600

Undisplayed Graphic

4.1 Coping Mechanisms

The shortage of arable land significantly constrains the ability of the population to adapt to and cope with food shortages that have become chronic. Nevertheless, several years of shortages have resulted in refining some coping mechanism and a number of initiatives have evolved at various levels. These include

National level strategies: (a) national level food imports, when possible, and inter-provincial transfers of food commodities in response to shortages; (b) official tolerance of increased activity in local food markets, which are increasingly becoming a major source of food for large segments of the population, particularly non-agricultural; (c) initiatives and innovations in food production, particularly efforts to increase potato production and to use double-cropping of barley, wheat and potatoes; (d) institutional production and distribution of alternative foods and (e) promotion of small-scale activities in animal rearing, involving principally goats, ducks and rabbits.

Provincial and county level strategies: (a) cross border barter trade with China; (b) intra- and inter-provincial trade; and (c) production and distribution of "alternative foods", especially during lean periods. The ingredients of alternative foods range widely and include, for example, acorn flour, sea or riverweed, edible grasses, ground corn cobs, etc. They often include a small amount of maize or wheat flour to facilitate digestion, though they are composed largely of cellulose, which has little nutritional value. Certainly such foods would not be consumed in normal circumstances when other foods are available in sufficient quantity. However, given severe food shortages particularly in the lean period, these foods are principally to provide emergency sustenance and counter hunger.

Family level strategies: these include: (a) food assistance, where possible, through rations for vulnerable groups and/or participation in food-for-work projects; (b) careful management of food resources; (c) intensive cultivation of family gardens; (d) rearing of small livestock; (d) consumption of wild foods and fishing; (e) dependence on family networks; (f) sharing with neighbours; and (g) purchasing from state shops and farmers' markets.

4.2 Food Rations

According to statistics from the Ministry of Procurement and Food Administration, the 6.33 million co-operative farmers received an average post-harvest ration of 146 kg per person6/annum in 1998, which translates to a daily ration of 400 grammes or 1400 kcal. WFP monitoring indicates, however, that farmers' rations vary considerably, between farms and parts of the country, ranging from 115 to 195 kg. In any event farm rations remain substantially higher than those received through the PDS. In addition, although farm rations from last year's harvest were below a minimum bench mark of 457 grammes per person/day to meet 75 percent of a diet of 2130 kcal for adults, farmers are likely to receive additional supplementary food from this year's double crops of cereals and potatoes at the end of June. Farmers also have the opportunity to grow food on family plots in rural areas and, in some places, to gather wild foods. However, the exact picture is less clear as farm households routinely supply food to city-dwelling and non-agricultural relatives as a crucial part of their coping strategy.

The average food distribution through the PDS from November 1998 to April 1999 was 35.5 kg of cereals per person according to the Ministry of Procurement and Food Administration. Although some small additional distributions are possible at the end of June, overall, the amount of PDS distribution would cover an extremely small part of the individual's energy needs. This implies a higher rate of nutritional decline amongst population groups, predominantly urban, who rely principally on the PDS. Though as indicated earlier, this has also meant that other coping strategies such as purchasing food from markets and receiving food assistance from relatives in agricultural areas has increased in importance. In addition, individual and family-level autonomy in coping with food shortages appears to have increased through, for example, rearing and selling small livestock. As an indication of differences in relative food availability, rations to farmers and non-farmers through the PDS in regions considered better and worse off, based on WFP monitoring, is indicated in Figure 4.




4.3 Updated cereal supply/demand balance 1998/99

Based on currently available information, the national cereal balance sheet for 1998/99 has been updated based on the following:

The revised cereal balance sheet for 1998/99 is indicated in Table 4.

Table 4: DPR Korea - Cereal balance sheet for 1998/99 (November/October) (`000 tonnes)

TOTAL AVAILABILITY
3 783
Cereal Production
3 400
Potato Production (in cereal equivalent)
383
Stock drawdown
0
TOTAL UTILIZATION
4 823
Food use
3 925
Feed use
300
Other uses, seed and post harvest losses
598
IMPORT REQUIREMENT
1 040
Commercial import capacity
300
Emergency food aid (delivered and pipeline)
642
Uncovered deficit
98


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5. NUTRITION AND VULNERABILITY

5.1 Nutrition

In general, to meet basic nutritional needs in a given population, a balanced diet should contain the following elements:

In responding to the humanitarian crisis in DPR Korea, donations from the international community have largely been in the provision of cereals. However, as food problems become chronic, in addition to providing energy, through cereals, it is becoming increasingly important that foods providing essential amino and fatty acids and micronutrients, be included to counter nutritional deficiencies that can be long lasting. As it can take months to recover from even moderate malnutrition, chronic nutritional deficiencies (see section 5.2), can have long term and, possibly, irreversible consequences. In childhood and to a certain degree even in adolescence, malnutrition can lead to irreversible stunting, which means that a severely malnourished person will never reach the height normally expected in a given population. When this occurs, even if a proper balanced diet is restored, the person will remain stunted for life. To counter such problems, therefore, it is becoming imperative that international food assistance be further diversified to include higher provisions for oils and proteins in addition to cereals. In regards to these, based on a need of 20 grammes per person per day of oil, approximately 169 360 tonnes would be required annually by DPR Korea. The Government reports 1998 production of edible oil at 69 000 tonnes, which would be adequate for around 41 percent of requirement. Between 1 November 1998 and 31 May 1999, a further 11 328 tonnes of oil were distributed in food aid, meeting an additional 12 percent of need during this period. There is no record available on import of non-food-aid edible oil, though county- and provincial-level barter trade, and cross-border movements of individuals are estimated to account for a limited amount.

The case of pulses is slightly better, with limited production on farms and in family gardens. The Government has estimated national imports of around 34 000 tonnes of pulses between 1 November 1998 and 31 May 1999. Provincial and county level barter trade is reported to have resulted in additional pulse imports. With availability of fish and meat highly limited, pulses constitute a major source of protein. Calculated at 50 grammes daily intake, the overall annual need is around 404 000 tonnes. In relation to this around 15 400 tonnes were provided as food aid between 1 November 1998 and 31 May 1999, constituting 6.5 percent of requirement during this period.

5.2 Nutritional Survey

A joint nutritional survey was undertaken in September/October 1998 by the UNICEF, WFP and the EU, in partnership with the Government. The survey focussed on children from 6 months to 7 years of age. The main findings were:

Although the 1998 nutritional survey provided some insight into the situation in DPR Korea, there is still need to further verify the extent and depth of the problem, to reinforce the need for specific remedial actions. In view of this, the Mission underlines the need for a more comprehensive nutritional survey.

5.3 Vulnerability

Together with some improvement in cereal production in 1998, the increased quantity of targeted international food aid during 1998-99 has provided a safety net for many vulnerable groups. However, in the absence of adequate recovery in the economy (to enhance import capacity) and in food production, indications are that if this safety net is removed or weakened under the present circumstances, the food supply situation can be expected to deteriorate seriously and rapidly. While the nutritional survey provided a snapshot of a serious situation in September/October 1998, the present mission notes that the situation has improved somewhat, though this is more apparent in segments of the population that are less vulnerable to food shortages, such as the farming community. Increased levels of small livestock and a general improvement in the population have also been widely observed. UNICEF reports that the current incidence of severe malnutrition has declined, though mild malnutrition among children is still common. There are however, stark variations in vulnerability based on regional and localised differences in food supply. The provinces on the east coast (North and South Hamgyong, and Kangwon), and particularly those in the northeast (North and South Hamgyong) appear to be the most vulnerable. Factors accentuating food supply problems include:

The safety net provided by international food aid has been largely uniform in its coverage of vulnerable groups. In April-May 1999 WFP, with the Government's support, started to respond to regional variations by providing broader coverage and larger rations in provinces identified as more highly vulnerable.

PDS rations also vary between counties within a given province, as counties with little agricultural land (due, for example, to mountainous terrain) provide less of all foodstuffs to their population. WFP and the Government have responded by programming food-for-work projects in these counties when identified.

A group that has fallen through the safety net, provided by food aid, includes families of industrial, office and professional workers, who have no members receiving WFP rations. Consequently, the October 1998 mission recommended programme food aid to be channelled through the PDS system, to meet the needs of these families. There has, however, been no donor response to this recommendation.

Food Insecurity in Areas not Currently Receiving Food Aid: As of the beginning of June 1999, 163 counties are accessible for international food aid. It is not possible to ascertain the food supply situation for 1the 15.6 percent of the population living in the remaining 48 counties. Information on these counties is not available. It has been noted that the majority of these counties are located in mountainous areas with limited possibilities for agricultural production.


Footnotes

1 Public Distribution System

2 Potato production in cereal (energy) equivalent, allowing for seed and waste

3 Agricultural Recovery and Environmental Protection Programme.

4 Although the recommended seed rate is around 2 tonnes per hectare, in DPRK seeds are usually cut and the seeding rate is around 0.5 tonnes per hectare, which is the rate used here.

5 The amount of energy 1 unit of potatoes provides is approximately one quarter of that of cereals.

6 Each person in the farm household.

7 In recent months there have been reports of increased mortality and decreasing population growth. The Government has been requested for clarification of growth and mortality rates and any revision to population will be made in the next FAO/WFP assessment planned for October 1999.


This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.

Abdur Rashid
Chief, GIEWS FAO
Telex 610181 FAO I
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495
E-mail:GIEWS1@FAO.ORG

Ms. J. Cheng-Hopkins
Regional Director, OAC, WFP
Telex: 626675 WFP 1
Fax: 0039-06-6513-2863
E-Mail: Judy.Cheng-Hopkins@WFP.ORG

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