INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
FAO/WFP CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY ASSESSMENT
MISSION TO THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
25 November 1997
Korea DPR faces grim food outlook for 1998
as food production falls for third year running
Worst drought in decades reduces 1997 maize
output to lowest on record.
Food production will only cover minimum needs
for seven months.
Substantial food imports, including food aid,
equivalent to 1.95 million tons needed in 1997/98.
1.25 million tons needed as emergency and
programme food aid.
Public Distribution System highly weakened
as supplies fall further, raising concerns for vulnerable groups without
other means to access food.
Continued food assistance to children vital
to ensure minimum nutritional needs.
International assistance also vital to help
the country find longer term solutions to food security, through provision
of essential inputs and sustainable agricultural practices.
Since 1995 Korea DPR has suffered a number of natural disasters which
have seriously impeded the capacity of the country to feed its people.
In the aftermath of floods in 1996, the country received an unprecedented
amount of food assistance through the international community without which
undoubtedly the emergence of nutritional and health problems would have
been far more widespread within the population. Notwithstanding the importance
of such food assistance as a short term measure it is vital that the country
address means by which future, and sustainable, food security can be more
assured. In this regard the performance of the economy and its ability
to generate productive employment and vital foreign exchange for purchase
of essential inputs and raw materials, for agriculture and food imports
in shortfall years, will be essential to any lasting strategy.
Following an interim assessment of this year’s drought in August, an
FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited Korea DPR from
21 October to 4 November to assess this year’s final harvest and evaluate
food supply prospects for the 1997/98 marketing year. In making its assessment
the mission held discussions with key Government departments, UN agencies
and NGOs and made field assessment visits to main agricultural areas, including
North and South Hwangae Province, South Pyongan province and Kangwon Province.
In addition, to assess food distribution and supply the mission made a
number of visits, some random, to individual households in urban and rural
areas, grain stores and public distribution outlets and schools and nurseries.
The mission found that the negative effect of this year’s prolonged
drought resulted largely in a significant decrease in maize production,
one of two main cereals in the country. Although output of rainfed maize,
which constitutes most of the area under production, was severely reduced,
reasonable production was still possible in areas with variable degrees
of irrigation. The overall output of maize is estimated at around 1.14
million tons, over 50 percent lower than may have been expected under favourable
weather conditions this year. The significant drop in maize production
is consistent with sizeable reductions in output in main producing areas
in north eastern China, which were similarly affected by the drought this
year. The adverse affect of the drought on rice, however, was much less
pronounced as the crop is largely irrigated. Although the level of irrigation
from some reservoirs, mainly those that are rainfed, was markedly reduced
the overall affect this had on the crop was not as severe as had been anticipated
by the earlier mission in August. Moreover, paddy yields in areas with
assured irrigation were assessed to be higher than expected under present
input constraints. This phenomenon is attributed to various factors including
improved fertilizer efficiency and greater use of labour. Rice in coastal
areas was also affected to some extent by the incursion of tidal waves
following typhoon Winnie in late August. However in making the final assessment
of the harvest this year losses due to the typhoon were not considered
to be as high as had been earlier anticipated. Milled rice production in
1997, taking into account losses, is estimated at approximately 1.52 million
tons which together with maize brings aggregate production of these cereals
to 2.66 million tons in milled rice equivalent or 3.48 million tons in
paddy equivalent. The domestic supply of grains this year, therefore, will
again be far short of needs for the third year in succession and once more
the country will be looking at substantial food assistance to meet demand.
Grain supply constraints in recent years have necessitated major revisions
in utilisation as part of a coping strategy. Most significant of this has
been the reduction in grain use for animal feed as well as the number of
animals. Obviously such reduction will have long term consequences as the
availability of animal protein in the diet will fall far below levels considered
desirable. Taking into account reduced utilisation, though maintaining
a minimum stipulation for food use, the import requirement of cereals for
1997/98 will be around 1.95 million tons. Of this it is estimated that
commercial imports, including informal cross border trade with China will
account for 700 000 tons, whilst pledged food assistance in the pipeline
will bring in a further 241 000 tons. The uncovered import deficit with
which the country needs food assistance, including programme food aid,
amounts to about a million tons.
In assessing the overall issues of food supply and food assistance to
the country, the mission has the following observations. The fact that
the incidence of chronic malnutrition has not become more widespread is
largely the unprecedented levels of food assistance the country has received
in the past two years. Without such assistance there is little doubt that
problems would have been more entrenched, especially amongst vulnerable
groups like children. The mission notes, however, that no acceptable quantitative
evidence regarding the present extent of malnutrition in the country was
available to it and concludes that a comprehensive assessment must be undertaken.
[ A study was carried out by WFP and other UN agencies, involving 3 965
children under 7 in 40 nurseries and kindergartens in 19 counties in 4
provinces. The methodology applied, was not based on random sampling and
as such cannot be seen as being representative of the country as a whole.
However, it lays the basis for a more extensive and representative study
in future. ] This is especially important as there is concern that nutritional
problems, and related symptoms such as stunting, may be a result of endemic
problems of food supply and health over several (pre emergency) years in
addition to the extreme food shortages of the past few years. There is
also mounting evidence that much greater polarity in food consumption exists
in the population, than perceived hitherto. Reasons why this is occurring
include transport difficulties, geographical differences, where some provinces
are better equipped to deal with shortages than others, greater access
amongst rural communities than urban and differential access to assets
and foreign remittances and the corresponding ability to purchase food
from emerging, though relatively insignificant, ‘private’ markets. There
is, therefore, need for enhanced targeting of food aid.
2. THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR.
Korea DPR is severely constrained by the amount of land it has available
for food production. It is estimated that only around one fifth, or approximately
2 million hectares, of the total land area can be cultivated, of which
around 1.4 million hectares is considered suitable for cereal and food
Source: Fertilizer Plants and Agriculture Commission
Source: Agricultural Commission 1989-1994, Mission Estimates
The limited potential for expanding domestic food production through
area expansion in addition to climatic limitation which effectively confine
cropping to one season a year, have in the past meant that there has been
heavy stress on intensification of agriculture to increase yields per hectare.
This emphasis relied heavily on irrigation, mechanisation, chemical inputs
to enhance yields and electricity. However although, an estimated 80 percent
of cereal area is potentially irrigable, following destructive floods in
1995 and 1996 a large number of irrigation structures remain damaged constraining
potential. Moreover, as a result of present economic difficulties there
has been a significant decline in the provision of the other services to
agriculture. The use of chemical fertilizers has fallen appreciably in
the 1990’s as imports of either petroleum for manufacture or direct fertilizer
imports have declined; farm machinery remains idle due to obsolescence,
lack of fuel and spare parts, whilst the provision of electricity for various
farm operations has deteriorated due to significant fall in generating
capacity. A combination of these factors has significantly reduced productivity
and agriculture has become increasingly dependent on labour, animal draft
power and organic fertilizers.
Specifically with regard to fertilizers, due to economic difficulties,
the manufacture, import and use of chemicals has declined markedly in recent
years. The country presently has three manufacturing plants at Namhung
in the south west and Hungnam and Aoji in the east/north east. However
there are two fundamental problems in manufacture namely industrial obsolescence
and poor maintenance, which mean that substantial investment in plant refurbishment
is vital to bring factories to efficient capacity and the second the extreme
shortage of raw materials, principally petroleum. It is estimated that
if the plants were running to capacity some 410 000 tons of Nitrogen equivalent
could be produced per year. This year however, the Government estimates
that around 300 000 tons of Urea were supplied to agriculture through manufacture
and imports. The mission estimates that less than half of this was domestically
produced. Of total nutrient supply a sizeable part is reserved for vegetable
and fruit production. Taking this into account, It is estimated that between
50 and 60 kg/ha of nitrogen equivalent were applied to rice and maize in
1997. The optimum rate would be nearer 120 to 125 kg/ha of N. The shortfall
in nitrogen application presently, therefore, is roughly 50 to 60 percent.
The corresponding decline in fertiliser use and production of maize and
paddy are illustrated in figures 1 and 2.
From an environmental standpoint a disturbing phenomena, which appears
to have gained further momentum in recent years of food shortages has been
increased cultivation of highly marginal hill slopes,. This has resulted
in serious deforestation and exacerbated problems of soil erosion and siltation.
In turn, increased silt deposits in river systems have increased the probability
of flooding even in fairly moderate rainfall years.
Table 1: Predominant seed types and main characteristics
Although limited quantities of wheat, barley and millets are grown,
cereal production is dominated by two main cereals, rice and maize. Rice
is cultivated mainly in south-western parts of the country where most of
the country’s irrigation capacity is centred and where the climate is slightly
more conducive to production. Maize is the dominant crop in higher altitude
parts of the north. Limited land and the emphasis given to rice and maize
as the dominant cereals, however, have led to continuos cropping and the
lack of rotation and fallowing systems which in turn have exacerbated problems
of declining soil fertility.
Field observations indicate that plant densities per hectare are comparatively
high at between 420 000- 480 000 plants per hectare in rice and 70 000
- 80 000 plants/ha in maize. The seed rate is also relatively high ranging
from between 120 and 150 kg/ha for transplanted rice and 40 to 50 kg/ha
for maize. Given the quality of seed and allowing for losses and spoilage,
these rates are fairly representative of most other countries in south
east Asia, with the exception of Japan where rates are considerably lower.
The dominant seed types available with percentage coverage and characteristics,
under favourable conditions, are shown in table 1. The use of the different
seed types is determined by altitude and duration in relation to the number
of frost free days in different localities.
|% of total crop
1. Source Agricultural Commission, DPRK.
2 Optimum yields possible under ideal climate and input
3.Average yields possible under ideal climate and input
4.The main Pyongyang varieties are P15, P18 and P21
5 The main Hwansong varieties are H1 and H2
In view of the scarcity of productive land, an intensive system of
manual crop husbandry is practised, the importance of which has increased
in recent years due to either the lack of operational machines and/or fuel.
Indeed to assist with key crop operations a sizeable component of labour
is normally required to be provided by non agricultural workers from urban
3. PRODUCTION OF CEREALS
3.1 The 1997 drought and
The production of cereals in 1997 was seriously affected by a severe
drought at critical stages in crop development and, to a lesser extent,
by typhoon and tidal waves later in the season. Although at the time of
planting in May rainfall was appreciably above normal, in subsequent months
the amount of precipitation fell sharply and the country experienced its
worst drought for decades. As a result rainfall in June, July and August
averaged between 20 and 30 percent of the long term average. Figures 3
and 4 illustrate rainfall patterns in 1997 compared to cumulative and long-term
monthly averages for a cross-section of weather stations across the country.
The impact of the drought particularly affected rainfed maize, though
another important consequence was a reduction in the amount of water available
in some irrigation reservoirs fed principally by rainfall. The reduced
availability of water from these reservoirs will also affect crop prospects
in 1998 as the volume available for land preparation and key planting operations
next April/May will be seriously reduced.
Although some replenishment of reservoirs will come from limited rainfall
and snow melt before the onset of the next crop season the amount anticipated
will be well below requirements, as the country receives a small proportion
of its annual rainfall during these months (figures 3 & 4). Currently,
based on observations it is estimated that some reservoirs are between
20 and 30 percent of capacity.
In addition to the drought, crops in coastal areas were also seriously
damaged by tidal waves brought by Typhoon Winnie in late August, which
destroyed protective sea barriers along the western coast. In these areas,
the rice crop has been totally destroyed or has yielded grains which cannot
be consumed due to high sodium content. .
3.2 Area cultivated
In view of geographical limitations, it is estimated that the cultivated
area of rice and maize on state and cooperative farms has remained more
or less constant over the last decade. However, there is now greater proliferation
of cultivation of maize into marginal hill areas, though it is characterised
by low productivity and probably contributes relatively little to aggregate
domestic production. In addition such cultivation must be regarded as an
ill considered short term measure to meet immediate food needs which is
neither sustainable nor desirable in the long term. Nonetheless some allowance
of these areas in domestic production of maize this year has been made.
Table 2 DPRK: Area cultivated of rice and maize by municipality/province
The official estimates of the areas of rice and maize cultivated this
year by /province is indicated in table 2.
||1 251 000b
a) mission estimate including reclaimed tidal areas and
hill slopes for maize.
b) rounded up to nearest thousand.
In terms of agricultural potential, approximately 30 percent of the
main cereal area is located in north and south Hwangae province, whilst
north Pyongan accounts for a further 16 percent.
Compared to area cultivated on cooperative and state farms in 1996,
there was an estimated increase of around 4 percent in paddy and 3 percent
in maize this year. This is attributed to rehabilitation of former flood
affected areas and greater cultivation in marginal lands.
In addition to rice and maize a further 50 000 hectares are estimated
to be under wheat, buck-wheat and barley and 40 000 hectares under potatoes.
Even under present input constraints in Korea DPR, yields per hectare
remain relatively high, especially on good to moderate lands which constitute
approximately two thirds of cereal area. This may be attributed to a combination
of various factors;
(a) although per hectare use of fertilizers has fallen in the 1990’s,
the impact on yields has been less marked than may be expected as a result
of greater efficiency in fertiliser use and the residual effect of nutrients
in the soil due to high applications in the past. In these circumstances,
although nitrogen application is essential to enhance or sustain yields,
the need for phosphates and potassium is less crucial. Indeed in the case
of P the introduction of phosphate releasing bacteria as microbial fertilizers
help enhance the content of phosphates in the soil.
(b) the use of organic and microbial fertilizers has increased.
(c) given exiting soils, the control level of yields, ie those that
would be produced even without the application of chemical fertilizers
is relatively high and estimated at around 3 tons per hectare on good soils.
(d) crop husbandry and the use of labour is highly intensive which contributes
to high plant densities per hectare and through field operations. Moreover,
in recent years it is probable that labour use in agriculture has increased
as a result of significant under-employment in the manufacturing sector
and the need of the urban population to have more direct and physical access
to food supplies.
3.4 Maize production
Maize in the food economy of Korea DPR, has assumed increased importance
in recent years. It is estimated that approximately 650 000 hectares were
cultivated this year, principally in south Pyongan, north and south Hwangae
and north Hamyong provinces. Planting normally takes place from mid April
to early May, whilst flowering and pollination occurs around the middle
of July. During pollination, the water and soil moisture regime is of vital
importance and significant shortages, as in 1997, can seriously affect
grain formation and production. Harvesting begins at the end of August
and extends to mid September. The main maize varieties are Hwansong 1 and
2 and Unsan 5, which together cover an estimated 75 percent of crop area.
Under present input constraints in agriculture yields of maize could range
from 5 tons/ha on good soils to between 2 and 3 tons/ha on moderate to
poor soils. Had weather been favourable this year, an average of around
3.5 tons/ha would have been reasonably expected. Maize is largely rainfed
and as a consequence suffered most from this year’s drought. However, production
was not assumed to have been affected by the typhoon and tidal waves.
In estimating maize production this year, the mission based its assessment
on the following crop scenarios and assumptions.
i) 195 000 hectares which had continuous irrigation, where crops were
observed to be in good condition with an average yield of 3.5 tons per
hectare. Production from this area, therefore, would amount to 682 500
Based on this analysis maize production in 1997 is estimated at 1.138 million
tons, some 51 percent lower than last year and the lowest on record.
ii) Approximately 130 000 hectares which had limited supplementary irrigation
with an estimated yield of 1.75 tons per hectare, which would produce 227
iii) 325 000 hectares of rainfed maize with an average yield of 0.7
tons per hectare, giving production of 227 500 tons.
3.5 Rice production
Rice is the country’s main staple, cultivated on an estimated 600 000
hectares, with a crop cycle of 150 to 180 days depending on variety and
location. The crop is normally transplanted from mid May to early June
and reaches flowering from the beginning to the middle of August. Rice
needs ample water to the middle of September or approximately a week to
ten days before full maturity. It is estimated that more than 80 percent
of the area under rice is planted to one of three main varieties namely;
Pyongyang 15, 18 or 21. For prevailing soil conditions in the country,
rice optimally requires 150 kg/ha of Nitrogen (N), 75 kg/ha of Potassium
(K) and 60 kg/ha of Potash (P) respectively, to be applied as basal applications,
at tillering, just before flowering and at grain development. In 1997,
allowing for constraints in input supply, under optimal weather and water
conditions over 4 tons/ha of paddy could have been produced on average
within a range of 6 tons/ha on good lands to 2 -2.5 tons/ha on poor lands.
The estimate of cereal production under the scenarios outlined above is
summarised in table 4.
Table 4. Paddy and Maize Production in 1997
In estimating paddy production, field observations suggest that the
damage due to the drought this year and lack of irrigation from some reservoirs
was not as severe as the earlier mission in August had envisaged. In addition
paddy loss in areas affected by the typhoon and tidal waves was not as
large as earlier projected. The estimate of paddy production was based
on the following scenarios and assumptions.
i) An estimated 461 000 hectares of paddy received continuous irrigation,
which were not affected by the drought. Crop samples from these areas,
at harvest, indicated yields of between 4.2 to 4.4 tons per hectare. Assuming
an average yield of 4.3 tons/ha some 1.98 million tons of paddy was produced
in these areas.
Before taking into account losses due to the incursion of tidal sea water
into coastal paddy areas gross aggregate 1997 production of paddy, based
on the above estimates and scenarios, would have amounted to 2.37 million
tons. However, it is estimated that tidal waves damaged an estimated 10
000 hectares. Field observations in damaged tidal areas indicated that
although some grain formation did take place, the sodium content in the
grain made it unsuitable for human and feed consumption. On average, yields
in coastal areas would have amounted to around 2.5 tons per hectare, which
suggests a loss of 25 000 tons in total. Total paddy production for 1997
is therefore estimated at around 2.35 million tons, or 1.52 million tons
of milled rice.
ii) An estimated 90 000 hectares of paddy which received partial irrigation,
which helped maintain a reduced water regime in fields. In these areas,
field observations indicate an average yield of 3.5 tons per hectare, giving
overall production of a further 315 000 tons.
iii) Some 35 000 hectares of paddy where soils had dried, though not
completely, due to deficient irrigation, with reduced yields of around
2 tons per hectare. Production from these areas amounts to a further 70
iv) An estimated 15 000 hectares which were severely affected by the
lack of irrigation. Samples, taken at harvest in these areas indicate severely
reduced yields of between 0.1 and 0.5 tons per hectare. Assuming an average
yield of 0.3 tons per hectare from these areas production is estimated
at 4 500 tons.
|i) Irrigated no damage
|ii) Partially irrigated - some damage
|iii) Rainfed - severely damaged
||1 137 500
|i) Irrigated no damage
||1 982 300
|ii) Reduced irrigation - limited yield loss
|iii) Reduced irrigation - large yield loss
|iv) Reduced irrigation- severe yield loss
|v) Typhoon/tidal wave damage
|Total paddy production
||2 346 800
|Total rice production a/
||1 525 420
|Total maize and rice
||2 662 920
a/Assuming a milling rate of paddy to rice of
65 percent. Although in the past a higher milling rate was used, the deterioration
in machine milling, the lack of maintenance of machines and the greater
use of manual milling systems suggests a lower rate.
3.6 Other food crops
As the production and availability of main cereals in recent years
has declined the importance of other crops in the food economy, mainly
potatoes has increased. It is estimated that approximately 40 000 hectares
of potatoes are cultivated at an average yield of 8 tons per hectare. Some
320 000 tons of potatoes, or 80 000 tons of grain equivalent were produced
in 1997. No official data were available on the quantities of wheat and
barley produced, though it is estimated that productivity of these crops
is low and only negligible quantities come into the food chain. What is
of more importance in future will be the possibility of enhancing domestic
grain production through double cropping. As estimated 150 000 hectares
are earmarked by the government as possible areas for autumn and spring
double cropping programmes. Under the scheme crops are planted in October
or March respectively for harvesting in June. Provided suitable quantities
of seed and fertilizer are available an estimated 300 000 tons of grain
could potentially be produced per annum under the double crop programme.
(Also see section 5) Vegetables are also an important source of vitamins
and essential micro-nutrients in the diet. The mission observes that the
emphasis given to vegetable production, especially on private plots appears
to have increased since 1995. The contribution of individual family plots
to household food security is also becoming more significant in this regard.
In view of the economic and agricultural climate in the last few years,
there have been large changes in the composition of the livestock sector.
Certainly the numbers of livestock, particularly pigs on state and co-operative
farms have decreased markedly as less grain has been available for feed.
Observations suggest that numbers in these sectors have dropped by as much
as sixty to seventy percent in the case of pigs. Presently co-operatives
appear to maintain core breeding stock for reproduction and distribution
to individual households for tending. The importance of oxen has increased
for draft power and the government has also emphasised goat rearing, which
can be fed on grass and do not require grains for feed, as potential suppliers
of milk and meat. The scarcity of feed has also meant that livestock only
receive limited quantities of grain and are alternatively fed by-products
such as bare maize cobs, stalks and grasses. Although such a diet is permissible
for ruminants, for pigs grains as part of the diet is essential to maintain
productive stock. Moreover, the use of cattle for draft use in farm operations
is becoming more and more important which makes some provision of higher
energy grain to supplement by-product rations essential. The mission observed
very few chickens on state enterprise or as part of the food economy of
individual household. As poultry are heavily dependent on grains for feed
this lack is attributed to cereal shortfalls in recent years. Nonetheless
as an important source of protein in a balanced diet some build up of this
sector is essential in future as the mission considers that further
depletion of stocks would have serious long term repurcussions on nutrition.
4. FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION
Three consecutive years of natural disasters, coupled with underlying
problems in the economy and agriculture in the 1990s have inevitably resulted
in a substantial decrease in food production and supply. Production in
the past was heavily dependent on an intensive agriculture sector where
provisions were made to optimise, as much as possible, both cereal and
livestock production. With high fertilizer applications and the intensive
use of machines and irrigation, productivity in agriculture was high and
the country produced most of its needs in normal years. In years of shortfall
the country was able to import, barter, grains from trading partners, especially
the former Soviet Union and China. The break-up of the former Soviet Union
and the corresponding economic shocks of the 1990s have greatly incapacitated
the ability of Korea DPR to meet food needs in several important ways.
The industrial sector and the economy has been in steep decline for several
years eroding the ability to finance either direct food imports or raw
materials, such as petroleum and fertilizers, which are essential for maintaining
productivity in agriculture. The result has been a growing divergence in
food supply and demand over several years. Needless to say that natural
disasters since 1995 have greatly added to the problem. Within this context,
therefore, future food security in Korea DPR depends on general economic
performance as well as on efforts to increase output in agriculture. To
this end, it is vital that the Government address the major issue of how
the industrial sector is to be revamped to generate much needed foreign
exchange and support domestic food production,. In the absence of much
needed investment and development in industries the future for food supply
in Korea DPR appears grim with or without emergencies.
Over the last twelve months the unprecedented volume of food assistance
to the country has been crucial to sustain a large part of the population,
without which the consequences of food shortages, such as the extent of
malnutrition in the population, would have been far worse. With regard
to the extent of the problem, however, although there is considerable anecdotal
evidence of nutritional and health problems in the country due to food
shortages, there is no statistical evidence of its extent.
In the 1996/97 marketing year taking into account domestic supply of
grains, the volume of cereal imports, including food aid, and deducting
grain use for seed, losses, feed and other uses, it is estimated that the
per caput availability of cereals was around 129 kg/year or 353 grams/day.
This amount of grain would provide approximately 1235 Kcal/caput/day. This
compares to 457 grams/day or roughly 1600 Kcal/day the UN uses to determine
minimum emergency rations. Moreover, although in the past it was assumed
that food was distributed reasonably equitably throughout the population
through institutional structures such as the Public Distribution System
(PDS) it is evident that, in the wake of serious food shortages, food consumption
is becoming more polarised in society with some provinces and groups consuming
more than others. Certainly the ability of provinces neighbouring China
to counter food problems through cross border transactions is much greater
that those further removed without such access. Moreover it is unlikely
that the proceeds from such transactions are systematically channelled
to the rest of the population, not least because internal transport has
all but ceased operation due to lack of fuel. Even within provinces and
localities, the agricultural population is better placed to deal with food
supply constraints than the urban population as supplies to the PDS have
been dramatically reduced. Unfortunately the extent of such polarity and
differences in consumption are difficult to substantiate through studies
and observations as access and mobility in the country remain difficult.
It is also becoming more evident that alternative mechanisms to access
food, such as private markets and special outlets operated by individual
employers, are gradually growing in importance. Access to such mechanisms,
however, are highly dependent on individual circumstance.
4.1 Cereal food supply/demand
In deriving the national cereal balance for 1997/98, it is important
to note that the balance sheet is intended to provide an overall - national-
perspective of needs. Distributional issues and those related to differences
in consumption in society cannot obviously be reflected in such a derivation.
It is appropriate for such issues to be dealt with through effective targeting
of food aid. It is therefore all the more important that agencies in the
country dealing with humanitarian food assistance be allowed greater and
freer access to assess such issues, to ensure greater transparency in the
distribution of food aid. The assumptions used in the balance sheet are
The cereal balance sheet for 1997/98 is shown in Table 5
Table 5. Korea DPR: Cereal balance sheet for 1997/98 (Nov/Oct)
a mid year population of 23.2 million in 1998.
A minimum consumption requirement of 100 kg/caput of rice and 67 kg/caput
of maize per annum to meet 75 percent of daily calorie intake. This is
the minimum ration the UN uses to determine emergency rations. The level
of calories from such a quantity of cereals would be approximately 1600
kcal/day/caput of an intake of around 2 130 kcal/day. In addition to this
minimum cereal requirement obviously there is need to ensure that the population
receive adequate quantities of protein and fats from other foods.
The seed requirement for the 1998 crop year, assuming that area planted
is similar to 1997, would be equivalent to approximately 75 000 tons of
paddy (seed rate of 125 kg/ha) and 29 000 tons of maize using a seed rate
of 45 kg/ha.
Post harvest and storage losses are assumed to be 12 percent of production.
Although in the past a lower rate of losses was assumed this has been revised
up in view of deterioration in the operation and maintenance of transport,
threshing and storage systems. This year for example the mission noted
that there were significant delays in the transfer of paddy from fields
to threshing centres as a result of lack of transport.
Since 1995 there has been a dramatic reduction in the numbers of animals
in the state sector and in the corresponding use of grains for animal feed.
Currently ruminants are increasingly being fed crop by-products such as
stalks and dehusked maize cobs. Pigs however, being mono-gastric, can not
survive on these except in the fresh state and therefore will need supplementary
feed and grain to survive, especially over-winter. In addition given the
workload expected of draft animals in the next cropping season it is necessary
that some provision for additional grain to maintain health and productivity
is made. In normal years a provision of 250 - 300 kg/animal/year was made
for intensively fed livestock in the state sector. In the present circumstances
a provision of 150 kg/animal/year is assumed as the supplement required
to maintain livestock at reasonable levels of nutrition. This is important
if the sector is not to deteriorate further. In addition some provision
of grain is also included for the build up of the poultry sector which
are largely grain fed and an important source of meat protein.
In view of the severity of food shortages no stock build up is assumed.
To meet food shortages the country, through national and provincial channels,
has had to intensify efforts to import food grains commercially in spite
of deep seated economic problems which severely limit trade. In this respect
the mission notes that the country over the last year has been more successful
in securing imports from countries like Thailand and Vietnam than hitherto
anticipated due to past problems of repayment. In 1997/98, commercial imports
are provisionally estimated at 700 000 tons, including informal and cross
border imports from China.
|Other uses, seed and losses
|Pledged food assistancea
|Uncovered import requirement.
a Carryover pledges from the 1996/97 marketing year.
4.2 Need for external food
It is clear that the present food crisis in Korea DPR is as much a
result of natural disasters in the last few years as the consequence of
accelerated economic decline, particularly after the collapse of preferential
trading and economic ties with the former Soviet Union. As addressed in
earlier sections, food production is heavily impeded by a severe lack of
essential factors of production which, together with natural disasters
have led to dwindling domestic supplies. Moreover as the country has not
been able to meet the shortfall between supply and demand through commercial
imports of food it has had to rely heavily on international assistance.
Although since 1995, the country has received unprecedented levels of food
assistance the volume has not been sufficient to meet normal food and utilisation
needs. The overall lack of assured supply therefore, has had various repercussions;
minimum food needs in parts of the population have not been met, there
has been a dramatic reduction in utilisation through reduction of grain
use for feed and other uses and the public distribution system has become
far less important in ensuring essential supplies to urban population.
The reduction in grain use in food and feed in turn will undoubtedly result
in nutritional problems in some strata of the population and further reduce
the availability of animal protein in the diet. As part of coping mechanisms
more and more discrepancies are appearing in society in terms of food acquisition.
For example the development of a parallel marketing system, outside the
state structure, which primarily benefits parts of the population with
access to remittances from abroad or tradable assets.
The significant fall in domestic food production over the last few years
has also meant that there is greater resistance in the farming population
to supply food to the urban population without sufficient compensation
in goods and services. These goods and services are, however, becoming
increasingly unavailable as large parts of the manufacturing sector remain
idle, with only an estimated 30 percent of industrial capacity presently
Also this year, co-operative and state farms will not be able to provide
adequate food to the Public Distribution System (PDS) and food flows between
surplus and deficit areas will be much reduced due to transport problems.
The combination of all these factors have led to polarity in food consumption
in various respects, ie people with assets and remittances fare better
than those without, the farming community is better placed to meet shortages
than the urban population, whilst individual provinces, especially those
neighbouring China or those having better agriculutral production, have
become more autonomous in dealing with food supply problems. Overall, therefore,
food shortages are most entrenched in urban areas and, of this, in parts
of the population which so far have relied entirely on the PDS for food
In spite of the coping mechanisms, which have countered food shortages
in the country to some extent, over the next year Korea DPR will continue
to need large scale international food assistance for segments of the population
that have the least capacity to acquire food and or have limited access
to other channels of supply such as markets.
4.3 Targeted food assistance
Most observers agree that targeting of food assistance to children,
especially in nurseries and kindergartens, considerably reduced malnutrition
rates in this group. In general, this assistance was well targeted and
could be satisfactorily monitored. Therefore, a continuation of such assistance
on a national basis is highly recommended.
Table 6 Korea DPR: Food aid needs for targeted beneficiaries.
Children in nurseries and kindergartens will receive cooked meals providing
around 1 600 kcal/day as well as required protein. The programme could
cover up to 2.6 million children, 6 years and under.
In addition, an assistance programme to pregnant and nursing mothers
should provide supplementary food as take-home rations with an energy content
of about 980 kcal/day and 25 gram protein for a period of 18 months. This
programme could target around 460 000 mothers/year in programmes jointly
carried out with partners in the health sector.
Up to 315 000 tons of cereals plus 95 000 tons of other food would be
required for the Vulnerable Group Feeding, as described above.
In the event sufficient donor support is forthcoming to support the
production of biscuits and/or for the preparation of meals for school children
in the 7 to 12 years age bracket, the provision of supplementary food providing
525 kcal/day would be a very valuable contribution to supplement the diet
for this vulnerable group. Such a programme could support up to 2.2 million
school children and about 160 000 tons of cereals would be needed.
During the last two years, Food for Work activities have been very successful
and well appreciated both by the beneficiaries and by government. The mission
recommends to increase these activities in order to support land rehabilitation
activities and to stimulate other employment generating activities for
a large part of the industrial workforce which is presently under-employed
due to a stagnant economy.
Up to 320 000 tons of cereals could be used in this programme, which
should provide employment for an average period of 6 months for about 0.9
million workers and provide food for them and their families (in total
approx. 4 million beneficiaries). This would reduce pressure on the PDS
and at the same time allow improved targeting and monitoring of international
food assistance. A summary of food assistance need for targeting of such
programs is outlined in table 6.
|Type of Assistance
||Quantity of Cereals (‘000 tons)
||Beneficiaries ( ‘000s)
|Nutritional support nurseries, kindergartens (6 years and
|Pregnant and lactating mothers
|School feeding (7 to 12 years.)
|Food for work
Since the overall deficit to be covered by external assistance is 1.251
million tons of cereals in 1997/98, including food aid in the pipeline,
the mission recommends that the balance, over and above assistance to targeted
beneficiaries above, which amount to some 456 000 tons be channelled through
the PDS on a regionally selective basis as programme food aid.
4.4 Food aid monitoring
Dealing with the international relief community and with procedures
linked to foreign food assistance is new in Korea DPR. Nonetheless, a well
functioning public administration and an elaborate public food distribution
network greatly facilitate the distribution and accounting of food assistance.
A limited amount of spot checks with distribution centres carried out by
the mission proved a high level of accountability. However, greater transparency
in food aid distributions is still needed and in this respect the Government
is urged to provide and facilitate more information and greater random
access to distribution centres and different parts of the country. As there
are an increasing number of international agencies working in food aid
distribution in Korea DPR there is also greater need for the UN system
and Government to work together in co-ordinating these efforts. In doing
so, Government and relief agencies need to agree that food assistance programmes
can only cover institutions and areas which are accessible and where it
is possible to verify beneficiary numbers and actual beneficiary receipts.
All other beneficiary groups have to be supported through the government
distribution system using national resources.
5. MEDIUM TO LONG TERM MEASURES.
Future food security in Korea DPR will be highly influenced by the
performance of the economy and the ability of the country to generate revenues
to import essential inputs for agriculture and food in years of shortfall.
Such food security can only be assured in the long term through a robust
economy. As it is impossible that the economic fortunes of the country
can change overnight there is need for external interventions in the short
to medium term to safeguard the nutritional health of the population and
promote greater food security through a more efficient and sustainable
agricultural system. Apart from food assistance to vulnerable groups which
are essential in the short term, additional food for work programmes should
also be considered for agricultural rehabilitation and other productive
In the short to medium term the country also needs assistance in revitalising
its agriculture to enhance domestic food production. In view of land limitations
it would obviously be desirable to optimise land use through enhanced cropping
which would enable more than one crop a year to be harvested. Over the
last year the country was assisted by FAO and other UN agencies in the
implementation of a limited double cropping programme with assistance with
barley seed and fertilizers. It is estimated that approximately 150 000
hectares would be suitable in future for such cropping with which the international
community could assist with the provision of suitable seeds and fertilizers.
International assistance with the supply of herbicides and insecticides
which are in very short supply, would also enhance productivity.
Other areas to promote greater food security include:
Crop diversification to reduce the emphasis on mono-cropping. Such diversification
would enhance soil productivity in the long run and reduce risk of crop
loss in any one year due to adverse weather conditions.
Research and trials of early maturing and short-maturing varieties to optimise
Research into effective crop rotation schemes and leguminous crops to promote
soil fertility and productivity.
Research and development of integrated crop and livestock systems.
Reforestry programmes to redress ecological problems due to cultivation
of marginal hill slopes.
|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.
||Ms. J. Cheng-Hopkins
|Chief, GIEWS FAO
||Regional Director, OAP, WFP
|Telex 610181 FAOI
||Telex: 626675 WFP 1
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