Despite some years of improvement, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is expected to experience its worst food shortages for many years in 2008/2009.
In 2006 and 2007, the country suffered consecutive years of summer flooding. Combined with structural limitations, including a dependence on imported fuel and its political isolation, it is understood that the food needs of the country's population are great and are not being met.
The 2007 floods hit the DPRK’s agricultural areas, known as the Cereal Bowl. The maize crop is expected to be 33 percent lower than the 2006/2007 harvest, and rice production is estimated to be lower by 25 percent.
An October FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission, based on extensive research and analysis in the country, estimates that there will be a cereals gap of 836 000 tonnes, even after expensive food imports are taken into account.
Some 8.7 million people, or 40 percent of the population, will need food assistance to make it through the year. The most vulnerable will suffer, including mothers to be, nursing women, children and the elderly.
An FAO/WFP Rapid Food Security Assessment fielded in June revealed a majority of people have already reduced food intake to two meals per day.
Food imports will be costly. At the end of 2008, the prices of rice and wheat flour remain double their levels compared with early 2007.
FAO is supporting the Democratic People Republic of Korea through a Technical Cooperation Project worth US$500 000 under the Initiative on Soaring Food Prices. These funds are being used to provide greatly needed fertilizers for barley crops, to be planted in the spring of 2009.
The high price of agricultural inputs, especially fertilizers, has been a limitation in agricultural production in recent years. The DPRK normally imports much of its chemical fertilizers from China and Russia, but with global shortages and high prices, heavy tariffs are being imposed to keep supplies from moving across borders.
A regional TCP project is supporting countries in implementing the input supplies programmes under the ISFP, including capacity building of national institutions and the improving price and market monitoring systems on national and regional levels. Policy support in response to high food prices is another element.