29 July 2002



An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited DPR Korea from 22 June to 3 July to assess the 2002 winter/spring season crops (wheat, barley and potatoes), update the 2001 main crop harvest, revise food supply prospects for the 2001/02 marketing year (November-October), including food aid requirements, and provide a tentative outlook for the 2002 main season crops.

The Mission interviewed Government, county and co-operative farm officials, observed some standing crops in fields, visited schools, nurseries and Public Distribution Centres, and interviewed families. The Mission covered five out of 12 provinces of the country, which account for about two-thirds of the national production of major crops. The visited provinces included South Pyongan, North Pyongan, North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae, and Pyongyang. Discussions were also held with staff of UN agencies, NGOs, and Diplomatic missions based in Pyongyang. In addition, the Mission used high-resolution SPOT-4 satellite images to verify vegetation conditions in 2002 compared to previous years.

The mission found that in contrast to the previous year, winter 2001/02 had been relatively mild. February and March were relatively dry until good spring rains were received in April and early May, with a fairly widespread distribution. Although the onset of spring was somewhat early, nocturnal temperatures were below-average. A dry spell of several weeks was experienced in advance of first summer showers in June.

Compared with 2001, soil moisture levels were satisfactory and irrigation reservoir levels were at about 59 percent of capacity. The winter/spring crops performed well. Wheat and barley yielded close to 2 tonnes/hectare, while potatoes under-achieved in yielding 10 tonnes/hectare (2.5 tonnes/hectare when expressed as cereal equivalent). The aggregate production of winter/spring crops was estimated at 441 000 tonnes, two-and-a-half times last year's winter/spring production of 172 000 tonnes and 34 percent higher than the previous four years' average of 328 000 tonnes. The total production of cereals and potato in cereal equivalent for the marketing year November 2001-October 2002 is estimated at 3.66 million tonnes, 3 percent higher than the estimate made by the previous FAO/WFP Mission in October 2001. However, it showed 42 percent increase over the previous marketing year production of 2.57 million tonnes. The bulk of the production increase came from yield increases due to more favourable weather this year as compared to the severe drought conditions of 2000/01.

In spite of this good harvest and taking into account the anticipated commercial cereal imports and food aid already received and pledged, the Mission concludes that DPR Korea still faces an uncovered food deficit of 382 000 tonnes for the remaining four months of the 2001/02 marketing year. Given the country's low capacity to import food commercially, food aid shipments must be increased to prevent the poorest sections of the population from facing extreme hardship in the coming months.

The more favourable harvest situation has had a positive overall affect on household food security. For the marketing year 2001/02, rations channelled to over 15 million non-farm consumers through the Public Distribution System (PDS) were 48 percent higher than in the previous year and more food was available in farmers' markets in most parts of the country. The Government also increased farmers' allocations marginally to 219kg per person per year. However, notwithstanding these positive developments, the Mission noted with concern the continuing significant disparities in access to food, the worst affected being urban populations in general, those living in food deficit areas of the North and North-east, and certain particularly vulnerable groups within the population as a whole, such as children, pregnant and lactating women and the elderly. The Mission is highly concerned by the recent down-turn in targeted food aid contributions. In May, WFP was unable to commence essential lean season distributions to the elderly and to caregivers in institutions, and was forced to curtail distributions to secondary school children in the six most food insecure provinces. Further reductions in its programme will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken within the donor community to mobilize additional resources. The Mission stresses that the safety net being provided by targeted food assistance cannot be removed at this stage without a sharp rise in malnutrition and extreme hardship for the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the population.

At the end of the Mission, the Government introduced changes in the pricing and wage structures. The Mission did not receive sufficient information on these changes. However, the UN system in the DPRK is currently collecting information on the scope of the changes and analysing their potential implications.

Less than ideal spring and early-summer conditions may have had an impact on the current main season crops. Although initial plantings were timely, crop growth was slow, affected by low temperatures. Transplanting of rice and maize started in mid-May, although some counties reported insufficient quantities of irrigation water. The capacity of the country's irrigation system continues to be a major constraint to increased production. The Mission noted that in areas with irrigation problems, only part of the rice crop had been transplanted. The final production outcome will crucially depend on good rains during July-August, the normal peak period when the country receives most of its annual precipitation. The outlook beyond this season remains unfavourable, given the significant shortfalls in essential inputs and the continuing deterioration of agricultural machinery.


DPR Korea continues to experience economic difficulties that began in the early 1990s with unfavourable changes in trade with its traditional partners in the former USSR and Eastern Europe. Government figures show that between 1993 and 1996 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 50 percent to a per capita level of US$ 4811. In 1998 the GDP per capita had further declined to US$ 4572. There has been limited economic recovery with growth of 6.2 percent in 1999 and 1.3 percent in 20003. Total merchandise exports declined from US$ 1,025 million in 1997 to US$ 597 million in 1999 but improved slightly to US$ 708 million in 20004. Imports on the other hand, grew more rapidly between 1996 and 2000 resulting in a consistently widening trade deficit that reached US$ 978 million in 2000. Inter-Korea trade expanded by 28 percent in 2000 from the previous year5. However, as stated in the UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal 2002, these positive developments are not enough to tackle the ongoing food insecurity problems for the wider population. High levels of under-employment have resulted in a decline in incomes and household food security. According to Government reports life expectancy has fallen from 66.8 years in 1993 to 60.4 years in 2001.

Agriculture, including forestry and fisheries, contributed about 30 percent of GDP in 20006. In the absence of significant external trade in agricultural products (particularly commercial food imports) domestic food production is vital for national food security. Over the past seven years, natural disasters such as droughts, floods, tidal surges, hail storms, typhoons and extremely cold winters have affected agriculture virtually every year with varying degrees of severity, with consequent adverse impacts on food production. Also the precarious foreign exchange situation does not allow significant commercial imports of much needed agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, plastic sheets, spare parts for machinery, tractor and truck tyres, fuel, etc. Over the years domestic production of fertilizer has declined to a level of about 8 percent of total application in 2001/02, increasing the reliance on imports. Yields of the main crop (paddy) used to be around 7 or 8 tonnes per ha during the 1980s, but now they are about half of that due to lack of agricultural inputs. In order to increase total food production in the country, every possible piece of land is being brought under production, but cultivation of marginal land has unintended consequences of soil erosion and further reduction in overall land productivity. The total food gap in the last 7 years has ranged from 1.04 million tonnes in 1998/99 to 2.2 million tonnes in 2000/01. Thus productivity improvement is needed desperately.

The Government has put agriculture at the highest priority and has reportedly increased the agriculture budget this year by 12 percent over the previous year. Estimates show that there has been some recovery in agricultural production in 2001/02. Substantial international assistance with the supply of fertilizers is a key component required for sustained recovery.

The obsolete and decaying farm machinery and irrigation facilities need rehabilitating and adequate and timely supply of key inputs needs to be ensured on a regular basis. However, more fertilizer alone is not likely to provide sustainable enhancement in agricultural productivity, and other innovative, environmentally non-degrading agricultural techniques such as total soil fertility management with green manuring, alternatives to chemical fertilizer, crop rotations, etc. need to be put into practice. In this regard, increased assistance from the international community is needed towards rehabilitation of industries, infrastructure and the agricultural sector.


3.1 Background

Agricultural production in DPR Korea is constrained by, among other factors, scarcity of arable land (less than 20 percent of the total area according to Ministry of Agriculture sources) and the limited duration of the growing season. In the main Cereal Bowl provinces of North and South Hwanghae, North and South Pyongan, Pyongyang - and to a lesser extent Kaesong, Nampo, Kangwon and South Hamgyong - there are some 180 frost-free days from May to October. This permits flexibility for double cropping, whereas in the other provinces, 150 frost free days effectively limit options for a second crop.

Increases in agricultural production can only be achieved through increases in productivity, given that all suitable arable land is already under cultivation. Double cropping is one of the important ways for increasing productivity: entailing the production of two crops annually on the same land.

As shown in Figure 1, long term production estimates show a negative trend between 1995/96 and 2000/01 with some recovery in 2001/02.

Undisplayed Graphic
The Mission visited nine co-operative farms in the main Cereal Bowl region, inspected some standing crops although the bulk of the double crops had been already harvested. About 10 percent of wheat and barley crops remained in the field and this subsequently delayed the completion of transplanting of maize and rice. Maize usually follows wheat and rice follows barley into the same plots.

3.2 Factors which affected food production

Rainfall and temperature

Heavy rain, floods and tidal surges in October 2001 along the Korean east coast caused considerable damage to infrastructure and crops in Kangwon and parts of South Hamgyong Provinces. This was the most significant feature in late 2001. The floods affected the harvested rice crop awaiting collection from the fields, as well as the recently sown winter wheat/barley crops, as part of the seed was washed away.

In contrast to the previous year, winter 2001/02 was relatively mild. Precipitation came in the form of snow in December-January and temperatures were above the levels recorded during the same period in 2000/01 (Figure 4). February and March were relatively dry, when planting of spring barley and potatoes started.

Spring rains were experienced from mid-April to mid-May 2002 (Figure 2), with a fairly widespread distribution, followed by a dry spell of several weeks in advance of summer rains in June. These rains normally peak in July-August. Table 1 below shows the country's typical crop calendar.

Table 1. DPR Korea: Typical Cropping Calendar in the Cereal Bowl Region (North and South Pyongan, Pyongyang, North and South Hwanghae)

Winter Wheat/Barley
Spring Wheat/Barley
Spring Potato
Sweet Potato
Soya Bean
Main Season Potato
S = Sowing; P = Planting; T = Transplanting; G = Crop Growth Period; H = Harvest Period.

Undisplayed Graphic

Transplanting of rice and maize was generally timely, although some counties reported insufficient quantities of irrigation water for filling fields. The capacity of the country's irrigation system continues to be a major constraint to production.

Water availability

Drought conditions experienced in 2000 and 2001 are still having some bearing on current water availability. In 2001, river levels were very low and reservoirs dangerously below normal capacity. Although some good rainfall in summer-autumn 2001 helped alleviate the situation, there was relatively little snow-melt in spring 2002 to help replenish reservoir water supplies. Current Government figures indicate water volume levels in six provincial irrigation reservoirs to be in excess of 60 percent of normal capacity, and averaging 59 percent nation-wide as of mid-June 2002. The Mission visited one medium size command area reservoir, namely Lake Unpa in North Hwanghae Province and was informed that the water level was only 26 percent of normal capacity. Subsidiary reservoirs of Unpa were also reported to have similarly low levels.

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, DPR Korea.

During the course of the Mission, county agricultural and co-operative farm management officials in the various provinces visited confirmed insufficient quantities of available water and mentioned the difficulties faced in pumping irrigation water from distribution canals to rice paddies - in particular to terraced fields from below - due to fuel and/or electricity shortages.

Planting conditions

Throughout the Cereal Bowl region, county agricultural and co-operative management officials confirmed that soil moisture levels had been generally satisfactory for the planting of double (spring barley, potato) crops in March. Notwithstanding the shortage of plastic sheeting for covering seedbeds, the late arrival of pledged fertilizer, fuel shortages and the deteriorating condition of the machinery, planting was considered to be timely.

In 2001, drought problems had caused major difficulties to transplanting of both maize and rice. As a consequence, many co-operative farms decided, for the 2002 season, to sow part of their maize crop direct, rather than transplant from nursery seedbeds.


As DPR Korea practises intensive input agriculture, timely provision of inputs such as fertilizer, seed, pesticides, plastic sheeting, machinery spares and fuel, is essential. Ongoing austerity measures have made it difficult to supply these inputs in sufficient quantities.

Provision of seed for winter/spring (wheat, barley, potato) and main season crops (rice, maize, potato) was reported as timely. State farms and specialised institutes/co-operative farms, handle seed multiplication. Sowing dates were in accordance with the cropping calendar.

There are fixed areas for rice production, but some flexibility is permitted for maize, barley, wheat and potato production. Potatoes are slowly replacing barley and there have been efforts to promote triticale as a shorter duration winter crop, in conjunction with wheat.

Plastic sheets are required in large quantities in order to cover seedbeds (rice, maize and vegetables) in early-spring when there is still considerable frost risk. There is limited domestic production, attributed to the lack of raw materials, and most of the plastic sheeting is imported, mainly through humanitarian agencies.

Large quantities of fertilizer (NPK and Urea) are imported annually, as local production from three manufacturing plants is insufficient to meet requirements. As shown in Table 2 domestic production of N, P and K was 14 050 tonnes, supplemented by 23 164 tonnes of imports. Some 131 483 tonnes were provided through humanitarian assistance, in particular from the Republic of Korea, the European Union, IFAD, various bilateral donors and NGOs. However, these Government figures do not include a contribution of 200 000 tonnes of fertilizer from the Republic of Korea (ROK) received in May 2002.

Table 2. DPR Korea: National Fertilizer Availability, September 2001-June 2002

Total (tonnes)
Carryover stocks from 2001
Domestic production
9 963
3 700
14 050
22 476
23 164
Humanitarian Assistance
82 513
22 565
26 405
131 483
Total Supplies
115 096
23 296
30 449
168 841
Agricultural application
113 584
23 296
30 449
167 329
Stocks as of June 2002
1 512
1 512
Source: Ministry of Agriculture, June 2002.

Before the 1990s, chemical/mineral fertilizers were readily available and were applied at high rates. However, due to the present shortage of fertilizers, crop yields have suffered. NPK and Urea are used mainly on the main rice and maize crops. For the 2002 main season crops, fertilizer applications averaged around 120kg/ha for rice and 95kg/ha for maize in line with present Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) recommended application rates. Many co-operative farms also spread about 15 tonnes/hectare of farmyard manure/compost, mostly on potato crops.

There is no domestic production of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides at present. Importation and humanitarian assistance have brought available stocks up to a total of 61 447 tonnes.

Over the years, the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides on mono-crops has not only affected soil nutrient levels negatively, but has also led to a significant build-up of pests. There is some research on and limited application of locally produced bio-pesticides. Diffusion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology at county level is currently being implemented.

There has been some increase of tractors and equipment to the national fleet, but this barely offsets the number of ageing machinery.

3.3 Winter and spring 2001/02 crop production

Spring crops have performed reasonably well, in spite of some irregular patterns of precipitation. Only in Kangwon and parts of South Hamgyong Provinces were there instances of reduced germination, attributed to flooding and seed loss. Elsewhere, germination was favourable and soil moisture levels satisfactory. The relatively mild winter temperatures gave rise to development of pests, and potato aphids and caterpillars were observed on several crops. Nevertheless, yields were far better than for the corresponding 2001 spring crops, even at disappointing levels of 2 tonnes/hectare for the two cereals and 10 tonnes/hectare (2.5 tonnes cereal equivalent) of the potato crop. Details of area and production are presented in Table 3.

Winter wheat

An area of 57 270 hectares was planted, with about 74 percent being in the Cereal Bowl region, including spring wheat under the double cropping programme. The main winter wheat variety is Jing-Dong 8, but there are also local varieties. The Mission estimated total national production at 123 866 tonnes with an average yield of 2.16 tonnes/hectare.

Spring barley

An estimated 35 630 hectares were planted, with 84 percent being in the Cereal Bowl region as a double crop in spring, while some winter barley is also included. The main spring barley varieties being cultivated are RedSun-3, Haeju-4 and OL-4.The Mission estimated total national production at 69 638 tonnes with an average yield of 1.95 tonnes/hectare.
Spring potatoes

Reportedly 98 744 hectares were planted, with 73 percent being in the Cereal Bowl region as a double crop in spring. The Mission estimated total national production at 247 253 tonnes with an average yield of 2.5 tonnes in cereal equivalent per hectare.

Table 3. DPR Korea: Area and Production of Winter/Spring Crops, 2001/02 (area in hectares and production in tonnes)

Winter wheat
Spring barley
Spring potatoes1/
3 000
7 095
2 650
5 393
1 182
3 172
6 832
15 660
South Pyongan
7 700
16 881
5 950
12 081
14 675
38 513
28 325
67 475
North Pyongan
3 500
7 749
3 650
7 332
11 849
30 073
18 999
45 154
1 339
2 816
6 505
3 786
8 083
South Hwanghae
18 700
43 403
10 800
21 859
20 852
54 591
50 352
119 853
North Hwanghae
9 600
20 381
5 800
11 675
14 025
35 483
29 425
67 539
4 700
8 982
1 830
3 113
8 910
20 863
15 440
32 958
South Hamgyong
4 000
7 140
1 800
2 835
20 859
50 374
26 659
60 349
North Hamgyong
1 748
3 671
1 748
3 671
2 650
5 482
1 323
1 580
4 050
8 385
3 300
6 514
1 600
2 688
1 128
2 428
6 028
11 630
57 270
123 866
35 630
69 638
98 744
247 253
191 644
440 757
1/ Cereal equivalent, 4 tonnes of potatoes equal 1 tonne of cereal grain.

3.4 Other sources of food

Apart from the cereal, tuber and pulse crops already listed, the Mission noted an increase in various other food categories produced on co-operative farms, in particular vegetables and fruits, fish and livestock. It was not possible to obtain production figures, but it is recommended that the development of such supplementary food production be monitored by future missions.

Fruits and vegetables

Every co-operative farm allocates a permanent area for vegetable production. Vegetables are grown in spring, summer and autumn and also occasionally in winter in greenhouses. Among the commonest vegetables are cabbage, radish, spinach, cucumber, tomato, eggplant and chilli peppers. The farms retain some 20 percent of produce, while the remaining 80 percent is sold to urban outlets.

Furthermore, every co-operative farm also allocates 20-40 hectares for fruit production. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, persimmons and grapes are harvested annually, with a surplus from some of these sold to urban outlets. Production figures were not available.


Since the early-1990s, input shortages have contributed to the decline in domestic food production. At one stage, grain crop production had halved, forcing massive slaughter of the livestock herd, especially those animals relying on grain-based feed. Given the scarcity of arable land, permanent/improved pastures comprise only 0.3 percent of the landmass, reflecting the relatively minor contribution of livestock to national food production.

The Government is promoting small ruminant animals, adapted to adverse conditions on state and co-operative farms, as well as at rural farmer-worker household level. Focus is on goats, and to a lesser extent rabbits. Goats are highly adaptable and capable of utilizing a wide range of plants, making them easy and inexpensive to raise. Goats do not compete for grain with humans and are performing an increasingly important role in supplementing nutrition through meat and milk production, and also income-generation. Local goats yield 200-250kg milk per 200-days lactation. Improved breeds, recently introduced, yield up to 500kg per 200-days lactation. Co-operative farms are making some land available for pasture development.

Rabbits are kept mainly within the household plots. Oxen numbers are somewhat static, which also appears to be the case for pigs. Sheep numbers are reportedly on the increase, although none of the Mission members spotted any. Fowl numbers (chickens, ducks and geese) are rapidly increasing.

Fish farming is being promoted, with many farms managing at least 1-2 ponds containing carp, catfish and various grass-eating fish. Given the problems of supplying water to rice paddies, fishponds are considered of lesser priority on some farms. No production figures were available.


4.1 Domestic supply

As in past years, food grain stocks are presumed to be negligible. Hence the only source of domestic supply is from production. The total production of cereals and potato in cereal equivalent for the marketing year November 2001 to October 2002 is now estimated at 3.66 million tonnes against 3.54 million tonnes estimated by the previous FAO/WFP Mission of October 2001. The 3 percent increase in the estimate is the result of substantial yield increases of winter/spring crops (wheat, barley and potatoes) over what was assumed at the beginning of the marketing year. Winter/spring crop production was 34 percent above the 4 year average level assumed in the October 2001 report. However, winter/spring crop production accounted for only 12 percent of the total annual production. Main season rice, maize and other crops estimates for 2001 remained the same as those of the previous Mission.

This year's revised production of cereals and potatoes, in cereal equivalent, shows a 42 percent increase over the previous marketing year's (November 2000 to October 2001) production of 2.57 million tonnes. Total area cropped increased slightly in 2001/02 over the previous year mainly due to a larger area under rice. However, the bulk of the production increase came from better yields due to more favourable weather this year compared to the severe drought conditions in 2000/01.

An expansion of supplementary production takes place in household individual gardens, on hillsides and on unused lands. However, no accurate estimates could be made. Currently taken to be temporary and negligible by Government authorities and not included in the official statistics, this form of production needs to be studied, estimated and accounted for not only on methodological grounds, but also to achieve precision in production estimates.

Table 4 below gives the area, yield and production of cereals and potato in cereal equivalent for the marketing year November 2001 to October 2002 and comparison with the previous year.

Table 4. DPR Korea: Area, Yield and Production, 2001/02 as compared to 2000/01 (area in `000 hectares, yield in tonnes/hectares and production in `000 tonnes)

Rice1/ (Main season)2/
1 339
1 099
Maize (Main season)
1 482
1 041
Other cereals (Main season)
Potatoes3/ (Main/Spring)
Wheat and Barley (Winter/Spring)
Total cropped area and production
1 410
3 656
1 377
2 574
1/ Converted from paddy with a milling rate of 65 percent.
2/ Details of the main season crops - area, yield and production, are provided in the October 2001 report.
3/ Potato cereal equivalent of 25 percent.

4.2 Imports

Figure 6 below shows the estimated annual cereal import requirements of the country from 1995/96 to 2001/02. During this period the cereal import requirement, which represents the national food deficit, has always been in excess of 1 million tonnes, reaching over 2 million tonnes during 2000/01, the year of the worst harvest. According to the Government there were no commercial imports during the period from November 2001 to June 2002, although it has plans to import 10 000 tonnes of grains before September 2002. The Government had received 41 000 tonnes of soybeans as a loan from China and the Mission learnt of a possible commercial import of rice from Thailand. On this basis, the Mission decided to keep the commercial import capacity figure at 100 000 tonnes that was assumed in the October 2001 report.

4.3 Cereal supply/demand balance, 2001/02 (November/October)

In drawing up the cereal supply/demand balance for 2001/02 the following assumptions and parameters have been used:

The population estimate has been revised from the earlier estimate of 23.5 million used in the October 2001 report as new figures were made available to the Mission. Accordingly a new population estimate of 23.078 million in mid-2001/02 marketing year, is obtained by applying an annual growth rate of 1 percent (as opposed to 1.5 percent used earlier) to a 1 November 2001 population estimate of 22.963 million. The population growth rate is based on Mission calculations using 1999 and 2001 population figures provided by the Government.

The rest of the parameters remain unchanged from the previous balance sheet prepared in October 2001.

The updated cereal balance sheet for the 2001/02 marketing year (November/October) is outlined in Table 5.

Table 5. DPR Korea: Cereal balance sheet for 2001/02 (November/October)

(`000 tonnes)
3 656
Stock drawdown
Domestic Production
3 656
- Main season
3 215
- Winter/Spring season
4 957
Food use
3 855
Feed use
Seed requirements
Other uses and post harvest losses
1 301
Commercial import capacity
Emergency food aid received or pledged 1/
819 2/
Uncovered food deficit
1/ Including rice, maize, wheat, wheat flour and corn-soybean mix in cereal equivalence.
Excluded are pulses, vegetable oils and others.
2/ Of which, 387 000 tonnes provided bilaterally.

The total cereal import requirement in 2001/02 is revised to 1.30 million tonnes, of which 100 000 tonnes are expected to be commercial/concessional imports. The cereal food aid, received and pledged to date, amounts to 819 000 tonnes. Thus, a food deficit of 382 000 tonnes remains to be covered for the current marketing year. Given the Government's severely reduced capacity to import food commercially, food aid shipments must be increased to avoid that the poorest sections of the population face extreme hardship in the coming months before the next harvest.


In contrast to the severe drought conditions experienced in 2001, early prospects for the 2002 main season crops are more favourable. Soil moisture levels have been satisfactory, initial plantings were timely in spite of delays in receiving inputs. Availability of irrigation water was reported as relatively abundant in some counties, while others were facing problems in maintaining constant levels in paddy fields.


Rice fields in North and South Pyongan Provinces had insufficient water from gravity canals and there were problems with pumping from rivers. However, rice transplanting was expected to be completed in early July. Some rice plants showed a yellowing and were infested with stem borer. The national target is 583 000 hectares, with some 73 percent in the Cereal Bowl region. This represents an increase above the previous high level of 580 000 hectares targeted in 1999. Efforts to expand the rice area are ongoing in four provinces. The Government has provided earthmoving equipment and manpower for large-scale land realignment operations which are changing the existing layout of traditional irrigated fields into well laid-out uniform rectangular plots.


Some of the maize crops had already tasselled, especially in the southern provinces, but their growth was irregular. Robust plants were observed alongside stunted ones. The national target is 497 000 hectares, with some 63 percent in the Cereal Bowl region. This represents a marginal increase above the previous level of 496 000 hectares targeted during 2000 and 2001. However, there is considerable maize production on hillsides and marginal lands. This production supplements produce from individual household plots, with each family plot being officially limited to 30 pyong (about 97.2m²). Production figures in respect of individual family, hillside and unused plots are not available. Soya is being inter-cropped with maize, and is also being planted extensively along the rice paddy bunds.


The national target area for the 2002 main season is 89 031 hectares, with some 49 percent in the Cereal Bowl region. This crop is now cultivated in all provinces. Although potatoes were well known in Korea - dating back to 1824 in North Hamgyong and 1857 in Kangwon Province - the crop has regained popularity in the past five years, promoted by Government policy. Areas under potato are increasing annually in the Cereal Bowl region and in foothills and mountains. Potatoes were also observed in many home gardens (individual plots) adjacent to co-operative farm households, planted as a mono-crop, or inter-cropped with maize or beans.

Other crops

Some 20 000 hectares have been targeted for the production of sweet potato, sorghum, buckwheat and soy crops. Approximately 63 percent of these crops are produced in the Cereal Bowl region. According to MoA, current triticale production is limited to only 750 hectares as a winter cereal crop. Quick maturing varieties are apparently available. Triticale is reported to be more drought resistant than barley/wheat and could prove to be an important higher-yielding alternative in the Double Cropping programme in season 2002-03. Triticale is included in the current 2002 Consolidated Appeal for the first time, with a view to importing enough seed for sowing of 2 500 hectares.


Household food security

The more favourable 2001/02 main season and significant increase in winter/spring crops have had a positive impact on the food security of both rural and urban families, translating into more substantial farmers' food allocations and a higher and more sustained supply through the PDS. In both rural and urban areas, there is a greater quantity and variety of non-cereals available, and livestock and fowl appear to be much more prevalent compared to the last few years.

In spite of these positive developments, there remain significant disparities in access to food, these being between rural and urban dwellers, between different regions of the country, and relating to specific groups within the population. Such disparities are evident in the prevalence of malnourished children and the extremely meagre diets on which many urban families are surviving. With poor living conditions and health care exacerbating an already precarious food situation, many families are still finding it difficult to break out of the vicious cycle of poor health - poor nutrition.

A large proportion of the rural population is significantly better off than the urban population, enjoying both a much more substantial and a much more varied diet. For the marketing year 2001/02, the Government's allocation to farmers was 219 kg per family member per annum (up from 210 kg last year). Farmers have access to income through sales of surplus produce. In addition, the majority of farmers have sizeable kitchen gardens and cultivate hillsides, which provide direct food inputs for the family over and above their official allocations. Livestock and fowl production has also risen, both by collective farms and by individual households. Collective farms are providing food inputs (cereals, vegetables and milk) to schools in their areas.

For urban populations, increased domestic production and bilateral aid, predominantly from China, have allowed the Government to increase PDS rations to an average of 292g per person per day during the marketing year 2001/02. This is 48 percent higher than last year. Furthermore, while serious food shortages often oblige the Government to reduce rations between April and August, rations were only slightly reduced in May this year and the Government states it intends to maintain 300g per person per day between July and September. Overall access to food outside of the PDS has improved, with additional cereals and vegetables available for purchase in state shops and urban markets. Higher income earners are able to purchase meat, though most urban dwellers have no, or very infrequent, access to meat products. In addition, it is estimated that some 30 percent of the urban population, predominantly those living in small towns or on the outskirts of the large cities, cultivate kitchen gardens or small plots.

While this picture is on the whole more favourable, it should be stressed that PDS rations - even at this year's higher levels - still provide less than 50 percent of minimum energy requirements. For many, the other sources of food mentioned above are insufficient to make up the family food deficit, particularly in winter and spring months, when commodities are scarce in urban markets. The fact that during the summer months, every available space in urban areas is cultivated is itself an indicator of food insecurity. The poorest families continue to rely on wild foods, such as edible mountain grasses, which have a negative impact on the digestive system, particularly of children. The Mission considers a continuation of WFP targeted food assistance to particularly vulnerable groups to be essential.

In addition to significant urban/rural inequalities in access to food, there are clear regional disparities, which give cause for concern. The predominantly industrial areas of the North and North-east remain the hardest hit in terms of food security, in spite of Government efforts to transfer surpluses to these deficit regions. Such areas, which have a much higher concentration of PDS dependants, continue to be severely affected by lower economic activity. Situated in relatively infertile land, they have at the same time less produce available on markets and less scope for successful kitchen garden cultivation. In an attempt to feed their families, desperate urban families in these regions walk far to mountain areas where they have found small (often infertile) plots to cultivate. WFP is also concerned about the food security situation in areas to which the humanitarian community does not have access at present, particularly given that many are adjacent to areas which WFP knows to be food insecure. It is hoped that WFP will increasingly be in a position to assist all Korean people facing acute food insecurity.

The food security of certain groups within the population remains highly precarious. The 1998 UNICEF/WFP Nutrition Survey revealed very high rates of chronic malnutrition among children, particularly among those aged 6 months to 3 years. Even with the more favourable food situation this year, a combination of poor living conditions, inadequate health care, poor maternal health and insufficient access to food continue to place a large number of children at risk, particularly those from families with low incomes and few alternative sources of food. The impact of this phenomenon on these families is reflected in underweight births, frequent return of the same children to paediatric hospitals, and low concentration in the classroom. WFP assistance remains a critical food input for these children and their mothers.

It is also evident that a proportion of the elderly are highly food insecure. While those living with their families enjoy a relatively more diversified food basket, those living alone are likely to have very few sources of food beyond the PDS. The maintenance of targeted food assistance to the poorest in this population group must also remain a high priority.

Food aid needs and the targeting of food assistance

Under its Emergency Operation 10141.0, WFP requested 611 602 metric tons of food assistance for 2002. Thanks to generous support from the donor community, WFP managed to meet 85 percent of targeted food needs up to the end of June 2002. Nonetheless, an insufficient food pipeline prevented WFP in May from commencing essential lean season distributions to the elderly and caregivers in institutions, and curtailed distributions to secondary school children.

Between July and December, WFP estimates targeted food aid requirements to be 317 564 tonnes, including 274 314 tonnes of cereals. Against this requirement, taking into account in-country stocks and scheduled arrivals, WFP is facing a shortfall of 127 518 tonnes. WFP is targeting the most vulnerable groups in the population, who have no way of meeting their basic food needs on their own. Urgent action is, therefore, required to cover targeted food aid shortfalls in this period and avert extreme hardship.

Given the precarious nutritional status of many children, WFP will continue to try to feed those aged 6 months to 10 years throughout the entire year. This assistance will be targeted through nurseries, kindergartens, primary schools, paediatric wards and other institutions. As a supplement to PDS rations, pregnant and nursing women will also receive fortified food in an attempt to improve maternal health, reduce the number of underweight births and improve their ability to breast-feed.

In 1999, WFP began a geographical approach to targeting, and will continue to sharpen its geographical targeting to areas most acutely in need. In urban areas in the six most food insecure provinces, subject to a more favourable pipeline, WFP will resume feeding in secondary schools, to caregivers in institutions and to approximately 50 percent of the most vulnerable urban elderly. Assistance to the elderly will continue until the end of the agricultural lean season (end-September), with priority given to those living alone or in particularly poor conditions. In addition, subject to additional donor contributions being received, WFP hopes to increase it FFW activities, which are carefully targeted not only on the period where workers have few other activities, but also to the most food insecure counties, many of which lie in the industrial North and North-east of the country.

The estimated number of beneficiaries is as follows:

Children in orphanages 0-16 years
7 100
Children in nurseries 6 months - 4 years
1 356 400
Children at kindergarten 5-6 years
649 600
Primary school children 7-10 years
1 394 100
Secondary school children 11-16 years
676 000
Elderly persons
365 000
Patients in provincial paediatric hospitals 24 400*
Plus accompanying mothers
24 400
Severely malnourished patients in country-level paediatric wards 60 000*
Pregnant nursing women
357 000
Food-for-Work participants and their dependants
1 200 000
Additional lean season
144 000
Disaster contingency
250 000
6 423 600
*Children in hospitals not included in total as the figure is accounted for under the respective age groups
(nurseries, kindergartens, schools).

WFP is further sharpening its targeting criteria. Advances have been made in the field of Vulnerability Analysis which has helped WFP to identify particularly food insecure counties. In addition, it is expected that the September 2002 UNICEF/WFP Nutrition Survey will enhance greatly the humanitarian community's understanding, not only of the nutritional situation, but also of food security and the underlying causes of malnutrition. The results should provide an opportunity to further refine targeting on the basis of sound nutritional criteria.


WFP continues to work out of five sub-offices, from which it covers all accessible parts of the country. As of mid-2002, more than half of the 50 WFP staff are dedicated to the programming and monitoring of food assistance. Some 2 462 field visits were made in the period January to June 2002, an increase of 28 percent over the same period last year.

WFP is encouraged by positive long-term trends in monitoring, which are allowing it to gain a better understanding of household food security and enhance its programming. The international community now enjoys access to 163 of the 206 counties in the country and monitors are able to collect and analyse a wider range of information than in the past. Notwithstanding these improvements, WFP remains concerned, as noted above, that it is not in a position to appraise the food security situation in inaccessible counties, where it is almost certain that there are highly vulnerable groups in need of food assistance. WFP expects to receive very shortly from the Government a list of beneficiary institutions, which will serve to provide a greater degree of randomness in the monitoring process. Work will continue with the Government to improve access to a wider number of counties, beneficiary families and to allow unannounced visits to families, local markets and institutions alike. Developments along these lines should raise donor confidence and lead to a higher level of food assistance being targeted to the most needy people in the DPRK.

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.

Office of the Chief
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495
E-mail: [email protected]

Mr. J. Powell
Regional Director, ODB, WFP
Fax: 0066-2881046
E-mail: [email protected]

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1 UNICEF, December 2000.

2 UN, Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal 2002.

3 Bank of Korea, Seoul.

4 Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 2002.

5 Republic of Korea Customs Service.

6 EIU; and Bank of Korea, Seoul.