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

8 November 1999

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1999 rice production increases by 14 percent but maize output falls by 30 percent. Gains in rice attributed to more fertilizer and generally favourable irrigation while output in maize falls sharply due to sizeable reduction in area and poor rainfall.


  • Fertilizer use in 1999 almost double that in 1998, but supplies still less than a third of needs.


  • Higher double crop production of potato, wheat and barley provide invaluable food supplies during the lean period, but overall production remains severely constrained by lack of fertilizer and other essential inputs.


  • 1999/2000 domestic cereal supplies remain far short of needs with major food interventions still needed.


  • The cereal deficit and food aid needs for 1999/2000 estimated at 1.29 million tonnes and 993 000 tonnes respectively, including 580 000 tonnes in emergency assistance for the most vulnerable. More assistance is also urgently required to provide protein, fats and oils in the diet.


  • The nutritional situation remains fragile, with a vicious circle of poor nutrition compounding poor health and vice versa becoming deeply entrenched.


  • To safeguard future food security more assistance also required to rehabilitate agriculture.




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1. OVERVIEW

Compared to 1995,1996 and 1997, when floods and drought caused extensive damage to food production, 1998 and 1999 saw relative stability. However, production trends during these years, indicate that DPR Korea has entered an era of relatively low input low output agriculture. Even in the absence of major natural hazards, therefore, domestic food production will remain well below minimum needs due to serious lack of investment and essential inputs into agriculture. Despite substantial improvement in 1999, fertilizer availability remains well below requirements. Fuel and energy for critical mechanised operations are in very short supply, whilst large numbers of tractors and machines are inoperable due to lack of spare parts and replacement. These, in turn, are due to serious economic contraction and critical shortage of foreign exchange for necessary purchases of inputs and food. Shortage of capital has resulted in severely reduced land and labour productivity, whilst more and more operations are becoming labour intensive. Overall, therefore, under prevailing constraints, the country has serious problems of maintaining agricultural production and food supply.

In spite of efforts by the country to redress chronic food problems through intensive planning and management of agriculture, given the scale of the problem and its root causes, future food supply prospects are almost entirely contingent on international food and rehabilitation assistance, economic growth and the ability of the country to integrate itself into the global economy. Failing these requisites, food availability and health and nutritional standards will continue to fall markedly. Already, the last four years have witnessed a significant decline in living standards, as per caput availability of food has shrunk, whilst serious health problems have increased due to lack of resources, drugs and essential supplies. A vicious circle of poor nutrition compounding poor health and vice versa has, therefore, become deeply entrenched. The full extent of the problem and the inter-linkages is not known as a comprehensive nutritional survey is yet to be undertaken. However, an indicative nutritional survey by WFP, UNICEF and ECHO in 1998, indicated an acute malnutrition rate of 16 percent, amongst children six months to 7 years, which represents one of the highest rates of wasting in the world.

As part of its objective of keeping the international community continually appraised of food supply prospects in DPR Korea, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited the country from 9 to 19 October. The specific objectives being to evaluate the 1999 crop harvest and review food supply prospects for the 1999/2000 marketing year (Nov/Oct). Following standard methodologies used for such assessments, mission findings are based on discussions with Government Ministries and Departments, UN and bilateral agencies and NGOs based in the country and on field visits to key production and consumption areas. These include, Pyongyang, South and North Pyongan, South and North Hwanghae and Kaesong in the south/south west, which together account for over 80 percent of cereal production in the country. In addition, in view of specific concerns regarding food supply prospects in less agriculturally important provinces, the mission also visited North Hamgyong in the north east. During field visits the mission inspected crops, undertook random crop cuts to verify yields, compared field conditions to images provided by Spot and Landsat satellite data, and observed conditions in public distribution centres and at household level.

The mission notes that food supply prospects in DPR Korea, will remain precarious over the next 12 months despite some improvement in rice production this year, due principally to increased fertilizer use, adequate irrigation supplies and the absence of serious pest and disease attacks. Although fertilizer availability (NPK) almost doubled this year, to around 199 000 tonnes, nutrient equivalent, compared to 1998, supplies covered less than one third of requirements to attain optimum yields and maintain basic soil productivity. In addition, heavy nutrient mining, where more nutrients are being extracted from the soil than replaced, and the growing importance of double cropping in enhancing food security, mean that overall requirements of fertilizers are likely to be considerably higher than hitherto.

The gains in rice production, however, were more than offset by the reduction in maize output as the area cultivated fell sharply, due to substitution and increased national emphasis on potatoes, restriction of maize cultivation on hill slopes to control degradation and a prolonged dry spell at critical stages in the crop cycle. The weather pattern in 1999 was erratic. Following a slow start to the season, rainfall at important stages of maize development from May to July was well below normal, which seriously affected yields.

Overall, therefore, paddy production is put at 2.34 million tonnes, around 14 percent or 280 000 tonnes higher than estimated production in 1998, whilst maize production is estimated to have fallen by almost 30 percent from around 1.761 million tonnes in 1998 to 1.24 million tonnes this year. In addition to rice and maize, food supply prospects in 1999/2000 will also depend heavily on the output of next year's potato and double crop barley and wheat crops. Although only a tentative forecast at this stage, based on target areas, production of these crops is forecast at 1.813 million tonnes of potato (453 000 tonnes cereal equivalent) and 241 000 tonnes of wheat and barley. In grain equivalent including milled rice and other minor cereal crops, such as sorghum and millets, overall domestic grain availability for the next marketing year is forecast at 3.472 million tonnes.

Based on revised population figures provided by the Government, grain demand for food and other utilization needs for 1999/2000 is estimated at 4.76 million tonnes. This leaves a deficit of around 1.29 million tonnes, of which the Government is expected to import 300 000 tonnes commercially, with a further 370 000 tonnes covered by pipeline food aid imports. Taking these into account, the uncovered import requirement, therefore, is estimated at 623 000 tonnes, with which the country still needs assistance. In addition, although sizeable contributions were made over the last year to rehabilitate agriculture, to ensure food security, much more is needed. In particular, contributions to the Agricultural Recovery and Environmental Protection Programme (AREP), jointly prepared by the Government and the UN have so far been disappointing and need to be enhanced.

Notwithstanding the immense hardship endured by the population and their resilience in coping with acute food shortages over the last four years, there is little doubt that widespread starvation has only be averted by concerted national efforts and the unprecedented volume of humanitarian food assistance provided by the international community to date. The mission contends, however, that DPR Korea's vulnerability to large scale famine is, perhaps, much higher than other food-insecure countries, in view of the obstacles and constraints it faces. The country no longer has the potential to maintain important strategic food stocks for emergencies, through imports or production, and coping mechanisms at various levels are becoming increasingly strained and unsustainable. Any future crop failure, in a country relying mainly on one harvest per year, can potentially have disastrous effects on a scale not yet seen. It is imperative, therefore, that the country rebuild strategic emergency stocks, for which international assistance would be indispensable. There are signs that the economic sanctions on DPR Korea, by leading industrialised countries may be relaxed. This would lead to recovery in the economy and rehabilitation in agriculture and could inevitably have a significant and positive impact on sustainable food security.

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2. THE AGRICULTURE AND FOOD ECONOMY

Relative to most other countries in the Asia region, which have much greater recourse to develop agriculture and/or the economy, food supply prospects in DPR Korea are severely constrained not only by extreme natural limitations of land and climate, but also an economy in serious decline. Needless to say economic sanctions and continued isolation from the global economy have severely compounded financial problems. Such limitations have resulted in falling productivity and output in the agriculture sector, as the provision of essential inputs, (fertilizers, fuel and machines) have fallen well below levels considered necessary to maintain basic food security. Though the Government has made commendable efforts to counter such limitations, through appropriate research, meticulous planning, intensive management and, more recently, increasing incentives in food production2, productivity of both labour and land continues to fall sharply due to lack of capital and investment. Machine hours are declining as more and more become irreparable constraining key agricultural operations, whilst aggregate fertilizer use has dropped in recent years to well below basic requirements to maintain reasonable soil nutrient levels. Due to these constraints, output of rice and maize has fallen dramatically. The corresponding decline in fertilizer use and production of paddy and maize is illustrated in charts 1 and 2 below.

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Chart 2
(Note: Maize production in 1997 and 1999 affected by drought. Also area decline in 1999).

In view of the shortage of machines and animal traction, more and more emphasis is being placed on labour, in key operations like sowing, transplanting, fertilizer application, weeding and harvesting. However, there is often insufficient labour to cover requirements, which constrains the timely and effective scheduling of farm operations, particularly at peak times around harvesting and planting of double crops. This in turn has reduced productivity further and increased post harvest losses. This year for example, the mission noted that the collection and transport of paddy from fields to threshers/stores may be delayed for several weeks.

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3. FOOD PRODUCTION IN 1999

At the time of the mission, maize had mostly been harvested, whilst an estimated 40-50 percent of the paddy crop was still standing.

3.1 Rainfall

In general, the weather this year was characterised by a slow start to the rainy season in spring, followed by below normal distribution till the end of July. Decreased rainfall particularly affected maize at critical times of the crop cycle, (pollination/flowering) seriously reducing yields. In addition, although some maize areas are equipped for irrigation, priority is given to rice. Rainfall in August was generally favourable, though too late for recovery in maize, but in some areas resulted in localised floods and some crop losses. Moreover, in contrast to normal years, when rains begin receding in September, this year there was a continuation into October, which affected rice harvest operations somewhat, exacerbating post harvest losses. Chart 3 illustrates the rainfall pattern for representative locations for the 1999 season, compared to the long term average.

3.2 Fertilizer Availability

The volume of fertilizer available in 1999 in nutrient equivalent, (199 000 tonnes), was almost double the amount in 1998. The increase is largely attributed to external fertilizer assistance, which contributed 58 percent of aggregate availability compared to 32 percent from domestic production and 10 percent from commercial imports. In addition to chemical fertilizer, considerable emphasis is placed on the use of manures and microbial fertilizers to enhance fertility. Some 15-20 tonnes of such fertilizer are normally applied to soils.

The provincial breakdown of fertilizer distribution in NPK equivalent, is indicated in table 1. As a significant portion of fertilizer is reserved for vegetable, fruits and crops other than rice and maize, it is estimated that in 1999 some 67 kg of nitrogen equivalent, 14 kg of P2O5 and 10 kg of K2O were applied to paddy and maize. Notwithstanding increased fertilizer availability this year, soils in DPR Korea are being heavily depleted (mined) of nutrients, as more nutrients are being extracted than replaced. For example, in producing a rice crop of 4 tonnes per hectare, given present fertilizer availability, 60kg of N, 30kg of P2O5 and 30kg of K2O would be consumed, whilst only 25 percent of the nitrogen used would be replaced by fertilizer the rest coming from soil reserves.

Table 1: DPR Korea: Fertilizer Distribution by Province
(000 tonnes nutrient equivalent)

Province/Municipality
Nitrogen (N)
Phosphate (P)
Potassium (K)
Pyongyang
35
6
3
S Pyongan
92
25
6
N Pyongan
111
25
5
Changang
22
6
2
S Hwanghae
112
37
12
N Hwanghae
61
19
7
Kangwon
55
11
2
S Hamgyong
65
15
4
N Hamgyong
33
12
3
Ryanggang
16
3
1
Kaesong
14
3
1
Nampo
22
4
2
Total Fertilizer
638
166
48
Total NPK equivalent
199
   
N in Ammonium Sulphate equivalent (22-23 percent)
P in Super-phosphate equivalent (18-22 percent)
K in Potassium Chloride equivalent ( 47 percent)

Chart 3

3.3 1999 Paddy and Maize Production

Paddy is cultivated in the alluvial plains or on graded terraces with irrigation. The area cultivated has remained more or less constant over the last decade. In 1999 planted area was 580 000 hectares, as in the previous year. Irrigation was continuously provided to some 80 percent of the crop and partially to 16 percent. The remainder being rainfed. In addition, in the centre-west and south west from the end of July up to September rainfall was favourable during sensitive crop growth periods; i.e. flowering and head development. The heavy rains in August caused localised flooding particularly in North Pyongan, South Hwangae, South Hamgyong and Kaesong. Although total submergence occurred on an estimated 100 000 hectares, for a duration ranging from 5 to 72 hours, the mission noted that overall recovery had been good.

In areas affected by low rainfall this year, (north/north east or 18 percent of total paddy area) yields are estimated to range between 2.8 and 3.3 tonnes/ha. In all other provinces yields have been estimated at between 3.7 to 4.7 tonnes/ha.

Post-harvest losses in paddy are likely to remain high in 1999, due to lack of fuel to operate tractor/trailers coupled with high moisture levels.

The Government reports a significant reduction in the area of maize planted in 1999 compared to the previous year. Based on official estimates, 496 000 hectares were planted in 1999 compared to 593 000 hectares in 1998. The decrease is attributed to substitution of maize in marginal and low fertility areas to other minor cereals, potatoes and vegetables. Together with double cropping, such substitution is generally viewed as an important strategy to increase food supplies during the lean season beginning around May/June

Maize yields around Pyongyang and South Pyongan are estimated at around 3 tonnes/ha, due to more favourable rains, from the end of June onwards, than in other provinces. In most other provinces yields are estimated at approximately 2 to 2.3 tonnes per hectare.

1999 paddy and maize area and estimated production by province, is indicated in Table 2.

Table 2: DPR Korea: Paddy and Maize Area and Production by Province/Municipality

Province /
Municipality
 
Paddy
Maize
Area
(000 ha)
Yield
(t/ha)
Output
(000 tonnes)
Area
(000 ha)
Yield
(t/ha)
Output
(000 tonnes)
Pyongyang
26
4.58
119
14
3.21
45
South Pyongan
98
4.21
413
61
3.28
200
North Pyongan
102
3.73
380
87
2.87
250
Changang
7
2.57
18
37
1.92
71
South Hwanghae
148
4.73
700
80
2.33
186
North Hwanghae
48
4.38
210
69
2.30
159
Kangwon
36
3.78
136
37
2.32
86
South Hamgyong
60
3.33
200
48
2.10
101
North Hamgyong
25
2.76
69
47
2.11
99
Ryanggang
2
2.50
5
3
2.33
7
Kaesong
12
2.33
28
6
2.00
12
Nampo
16
4.06
65
7
2.71
19
Total
580
4.04
2 343
496
2.49
1 235

3.4 Potato, Wheat/Barley and Minor Cereal Production

In addition to the main cereals, an estimated 20 000 hectares were planted to minor cereal crops such as sorghum and millets. Although these crops generally require low inputs, unfavourable rainfall affected yields, which are estimated at around 1.0 tonne/ha. The targeted area to be planted under the 1999-2000 double crop programme is 100 000 hectares of winter wheat/barley and 23 000 hectares of spring barley/wheat. The target area for potato cultivation next year has been set at 180 000 hectares out of which 103 000 ha will be planted as the main crop and a further 77 000 hectares as a double crop. About 50 percent of this area is located in the northern provinces of Ryanggang, North and South Hamgyong and the rest in the main agricultural belt in North and South Hwangae and North and South Pyongan. The mission, however, notes that there is a serious shortage of potato seed, as a result of which farmers are having to resort to cutting seed tubers into four pieces for planting. This obviously reduces yields significantly.

Estimated cereal production and availability for the 1999/2000 marketing year is outlined in table 3.

Table 3: DPR Korea: Cereal Area and Production, 1999/2000

Crop
Area
('000 ha)
Yield (t/ha)
Production
('000 tonnes)
Paddy
580
4.04
2 343
Maize
496
2.49
1 235
Potato (2000)
180
10.07
1 813
Wheat and Barley double
cropped 99-00
123
1.96
241
Other cereals
20
1.0
20
Paddy in milled equivalent1/
   
1 523
Potato in cereal equivalent2/
   
453
Total Production (cereal equivalent)
   
3 472
1/ Milling rate of 65 percent
2/ Potato to cereal equivalent 25 percent (4:1)

Domestic availability of cereals (including rice in milled terms and potato in cereal equivalent) for 1999/2000 is estimated at 3.472 million tonnes.

3.5 Vegetable Production

Vegetables provide an extremely important source of vitamins and minerals and are an important part of the stable diet. In both rural and urban areas, cabbage and other vegetables are produced on household plots for preservation as "kimchi", which is eaten with rice or other staples throughout the year. Household plots also enable production and sale of produce to farmers' markets, enhancing food security. This year, rains in September and October generally favoured vegetable production.

3.6 Livestock Production

Government policy for the livestock sector is now to generally discourage mono-gastric animals which require grains for feed in favour of ruminant herds, particularly goats. The added advantage in the case of goats is that they can graze on pastures on hill slopes, which have limited potential for crop production. Although in the period following the natural disasters in 1995 and 1996, livestock numbers decreased significantly, there has been some recovery in the last two years. (Table 4).

Table 4: DPR Korea: Livestock Population1 (000 head)

 
1998
1999
% Change 1999/1998
Oxen
565
577
2
Pigs
2 475
2 970
20
Sheep
165
185
12
Goats
1 508
1 900
26
Rabbits
2 795
5 202
86
Chicken
8 965
10 371
16
Duck
1 372
1 624
18
Geese
462
829
79
1/ DPR Korea: Official Estimates.

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4. FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION

Although 1998 and 1999 have been relatively free of natural catastrophes that severely reduced domestic food production and supply in the period 1995 to 1997, the capacity of the country to provide adequate food to its population remains heavily constrained by economic problems and the consequent shortage of foreign exchange to procure essential inputs for agriculture and commercial imports of food. This year again, as expected, domestic production fell far short of needs and the country will again have to depend heavily on external food assistance as its capacity to import commercially remains extremely limited. Food aid is an essential coping strategy for large numbers of vulnerable people, in the absence of which there would be serious consequences for their well being. Chart 4 indicates the total volume of food aid received by DPR Korea since 1995/96, compared to the FAO/WFP estimate of the overall cereal deficit. Actual food assistance as a proportion of the estimated deficit ranged from 36 percent in 1996/97 to 76 percent in 1997/98. Since 1995, the total value of emergency food aid operations, approved jointly by the Director-General of FAO and the Executive Director of WFP, amounts to U.S. $ 815 million. Although, international support to FAO/WFP emergency operations has been invaluable, there is concern that the donor base is narrow, with only one major donor providing the bulk of contributions. As any changes in contributions would have serious implications for food supply in DPR Korea, it is important that efforts be made to broaden the overall base. In addition to assistance through the UN system, food aid through bilateral channels and NGOs has also been instrumental in reducing the effects of food shortages.

Chart 4
1/ The difference between the estimated cereal deficit and food aid does not represent the volume covered
by commercial imports , as in most years a large part of the deficit was left unmet. At the height of the crisis
in 1996/97, for example, taking into account actual food aid, net domestic production and reported imports,
estimated cereal availability per caput was around 25 percent below minimum requirements.
2 / For 1999/2000 the deficit is based on revised official population figures of over 1 million people less than estimated
by previous FAO/WFP missions, whilst food aid represents requirements.

4.1 Cereal supply/demand balance, 1999/2000 (Nov/Oct)

In estimating the cereal supply/demand balance for the next marketing year (Nov.1999 to Oct.2000) the following assumption and parameters have been used;

The cereal balance sheet for the 1999-2000 marketing year (Nov/Oct) based on the above is outlined in Table 5.

Table 5: DPR Korea: Cereal balance sheet for 1999/2000 (Nov/Oct)

 
(`000 tonnes)
TOTAL AVAILABILITY
3 472
Cereal Production1
3 472
Stock draw down
0
TOTAL UTILIZATION
4 765
Food use
3 814
Feed use
300
Other uses, seed and post harvest losses
651
IMPORT REQUIREMENT
1 293
Commercial import capacity
300
Emergency food aid (pipeline)
370
Uncovered deficit
623
1/ Cereal Production including potato in cereal equivalent derived from Table 3

4.2 Public Distribution System and Coping Mechanisms

The official estimate of population as of end August 1999 stood at 22.554 million people. Of these, approximately 6.6 million people were classified as agricultural workers who receive annual food supplies at harvest and are not provided PDS rations. The number of PDS recipients was estimated at 15.970 million, including 767 000 service personnel. A breakdown of Government population estimates by province and category is indicated in Table 6.

Table 6. DPR Korea: Government estimate of population by province and food category (000).

Province
 
Population
Percentage
Total
(% of Total)
Agricultural
PDS1/
Pyongyang
3 044
(13)
8
92
S Pyongan
3 100
(14)
27
73
N Pyongan
2 625
(12)
40
60
Changang
1 232
(5)
28
72
S Hwanghae
2 290
(10)
49
51
N Hwanghae
1 734
(8)
40
60
Kangwon
1 467
(7)
31
69
S Hamgyong
2 932
(13)
31
69
N Hamgyong
2 227
(10)
22
78
Ryanggang
703
(3)
21
79
Kaesong
386
(2)
35
65
Nampo
814
(4)
18
82
Total
22 554
(100)
29
71
1/ Includes 767 000 service personnel

Relatively, where a large proportion ( 40 percent +) of the population are agricultural, such as North Pyongan and North and South Hwangae, coping strategies and food availability are considered considerably better than provinces such as North Hamgyong where more than three quarters of the population are dependent on public distribution.

Based on projected population and cereal production by province over the next year, the relative distribution and extent of food shortages, before allowances for commercial imports and aid, by province is illustrated in table 7. The largest deficits therefore would occur in the capital municipality of Pyongyang and in the industrial heart land of the North East (North and South Hamgyong). More over when per caput domestic availability of cereals by province is considered, in comparison to the minimum requirement of 457 grams/day, only south Hwangae province would have an available surplus to redistribute with most other locations falling well short. See Chart 5.



Chart 5


Chart 6 illustrates official data for the public distribution system for the period November 1998 to September 1999. Public distribution of main cereals, confirmed by WFP observations, essentially stopped in March/April, after which distribution, was mainly of alternative foods up till July, when potatoes were also distributed. Between March and September, therefore, PDS distributions were heavily dependent on alternative foods and, subsequently on double crop barley and wheat and potatoes. The nutritional value of alternate foods, however, is questionable and apart from satisfying immediate hunger needs, may, in fact, have adverse consequences in accentuating existing health problems, such as diarrhoea in children. During the lean food supply months, families also had to adopt a variety of other coping mechanisms including (i) intensive cultivation of family gardens in rural areas; (ii) rearing of small livestock, especially hens, rabbits and pigs; (iii) collection of wild foods and fishing; (iv) depending on family networks; (v) procuring food from state shops and farmers' markets and (vi) food-for-work activities and receiving of food aid for vulnerable groups.

Note: March-June only alternative foods (noodles of sea-weed wild plants with small quantities of cereal, mainly maize flour) distributed.

Table 7: DPR Korea: Cereal Surplus/Deficit by Province; 1999/2000 (000 tonnes)

 
Province
Production (000 tonnes)
 
Popula-
tion 4
(000)
 
Cereal Consump-
tion 5
(000
tonnes)
 
Overall Surplus/
Deficit
(000) tonnes
 
Per caput Domestic Avail-
ability
(grams/
day)
 Rice1
Maize
Other Cereals
Potato Cereal Equiva-
lent 2
Total
(Cereal equiva-
lent)
Production available for food 3
Pyongyang
77.4
45
15
5.3
142. 6
103.5
3 082.1
514.7
-412.5
92
South Pyongan
268.5
200
32
53
553.5
401.9
3 138.8
524.2
-127.3
351
North Pyongan
247.0
250
23
53.8
573.7
416.6
2 657.8
443.9
-32.5
429
Changang
11.7
71
3
11.5
97.2
70.6
1 247.4
208.3
-138.6
155
South Hwanghae
455
186
66
85.0
792.0
575.0
2 319.6
387.4
180.5
679
North Hwanghae
136.5
159
27
36.5
359.0
260.7
1 755.7
293.2
-35.8
407
Kangwon
88.4
86
12
28.5
214.9
156.0
1 485.4
248.0
-94.0
287
South Hamgyong
130
101
22
60.0
313.0
227.3
2 968.6
495.8
-271.3
209
North Hamgyong
44.9
99
3
46.0
192.8
140.0
2 254.8
376.6
-238.3
170
Ryanggang
3.3
7
38
58.0
106.0
77.0
711.8
118.9
-42.6
297
Kaesong
18.2
12
10
3.3
43.5
31.6
390.8
65.3
-34.1
221
Nampo
42.3
19
10
12.5
83.7
60.1
824.2
137.6
-77.6
202
Total
1 523
1 235
261
453.3
3 472.2
2 521.3
22 837
3 814.0
-1 293
303
1 Paddy to milled rice conversion factor : 0.65
2 Potato to cereal equivalent conversion factor 4:1
3 Production available for food by deduction of feed, seed and post-harvest losses.
4 Official population figures projected to mid-year 2000 with official annual growth rate of 1.5%
5 At 167 kg of annual cereals per-caput

4.3 Need for Emergency Food Assistance

Chronic food shortages will persist in DPR Korea among the general population, with problems of severe malnutrition, particularly in children, being exacerbated by serious health problems such as diarrhea, due to contaminated water, poor sanitation, unhygienic practices and consumption of unsuitable/alternative foods. Consequently, in the last few years, as the situation has deteriorated, there has been a re-emergence of diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that were previously controlled. The combination of poor nutrition and poor health, therefore, has led to high rates of mortality, whilst, correspondingly, fertility rates have been declining.

As section 4 highlighted, significant differences in food consumption in different locations, depending on the importance of agriculture, and between groups is becoming more apparent. Effectively there is little inter provincial shipment of cereals from surplus to deficit areas as, in relation to population, only one province (South Hwangae) would have a net surplus of domestic supplies, over minimum needs, in 1999/2000 (Chart 5) This, compounded by transportation problems, has meant that many deficit areas, especially remote ones, are having to become largely autonomous in coping with food problems.

In addition, 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 PDS rations. On its visit to North Hamgyong, however, the mission noted that nothing was received into the PDS system in the province last year, from domestic sources, due to generalised shortages. This has meant that many families especially those that are not targeted for food aid have had to rely on an assortment of coping strategies such as consumption of alternative foods, sharing with families receiving food aid and on cultivation in hill areas.

To counter the humanitarian crisis in DPR Korea, the UN system, with large international assistance, has adopted a strategy focused on targeted food aid, agricultural and environmental rehabilitation and food security and improving health services. Of the total population of around 15.9 million people who relied on the Public Distribution System (PDS) in 1998/99, 2 million (children, pregnant and nursing women and hospital patients) received full WFP food rations in aid and, therefore, were excluded from PDS distribution. In addition some 3.5 million beneficiaries also received part of their food requirements from WFP.

From November 1998 to September 1999 the total volume of food assistance from all channels (UN and bilateral) provided to DPR Korea amounted to 110 918 tonnes of rice, 166 360 tonnes of maize, 481 119 tonnes of wheat, 50 470 tonnes of wheat flour and cereal blends, 19 401 tonnes of pulses, 9 235 tonnes of oil and 3 299 tonnes of other commodities. See Chart 7



Chart 7


Although the focus on improving nutritional standards, has so far targeted severely malnourished children, pregnant and nursing women, effective improvement, even in these groups, has been constrained by a shortage of pledges to WFP for timely procurement of complementary foods such as beans, vegetable oils and other non-cereals. Consequently, while the supply of cereal food aid to target groups was relatively good, that of other essential complementary foods (proteins fats etc) was well below needs. As food problems continue, therefore, international support for the provision of such foods is becoming increasingly important.

In view of chronic food shortages and the importance of international food aid in helping the country and population cope with food shortages, an appeal is made to the international community to continue assisting DPR Korea over the next 12 months. Food aid assistance amounting to 580 000 tonnes will be required for vulnerable groups, covering an estimated 8 million beneficiaries. The food basket would contain cereals, CSB, pulses, oil, biscuits and sugar.

The main beneficiaries (75 percent) would be children (in orphanages, nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools), whilst over half would be female including pregnant and nursing mothers. Other vulnerable groups receiving rations would include hospital patients and the elderly. Food assistance will be distributed to vulnerable groups in the 163 counties accessible to WFP, with emphasis on the northeast.

4.4 Food for Work

In addition to food assistance to vulnerable group food-for-work projects will target workers who are under-employed with no access to land, and rural industrial workers at nutritional risk due to limited access to coping mechanisms. These projects will be undertaken in collaboration with local Government authorities, and sometimes include the participation of other UN agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, FAO and NGOs. Essential non-food items are provided by WFP, such as work tools, protective clothing, etc. A break down of needs for food for work activities is outlined in table 8.

Table 8: DPR Korea: Resource requirements for Food For Work Projects.

Number of Projects:
175
Beneficiaries (000)
1 650
Food Commitment (000 tonnes)
102
Non-Food Items requested (U.S $ million)
3.6

4.5 Monitoring and Access

The quality of access has improved during 1999, with greater flexibility in visiting arrangements and more visits allowed to rural beneficiaries. At present, WFP has access to 163 counties out of a total of 211. Food aid is only distributed to accessible counties. The quality of access has improved during 1999, with more unscheduled visits to beneficiary institutions, as well as family visits.

WFP has established five sub-offices for monitoring in Sinuiju, Wonsan, Hamhung, Chongjin and Hyesan. There are 46 international and 60 national staff for operational and monitoring activities, to which the Government has agreed. Monitors regularly visit beneficiaries and beneficiary institutions in accessible counties, to ensure that the food reaches the beneficiaries, assess the impact of food assistance and the need for further assistance and provide guidance and advice on project implementation.

Over the past year, the number of female monitors has been substantially increased and now represent 46 percent of monitoring staff. This representation of women in the field enables WFP to obtain better quality information on the situation and difficulties faced by Korean women, especially as females make up more than 53 percent of beneficiaries.

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5. MEDIUM TO LONG TERM MEASURES FOR AGRICULTURAL REHABILITATION

Various initiatives are suggested below as part of a strategy to enhance food security in DPR Korea.

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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1 FAO/WFP mission estimate

2 The Government recently allowed the provision of cooperatives to elect chairpersons, on an annual basis, who can offer incentives to improve productivity.