Asia Pacific

Lack of water worsening North Korea's already-ailing food security: U.N.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Food production in North Korea has fallen for the first time since 2010, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, warning that it expects worsening hunger as the country struggles with poor rainfall.

In 2015, North Korea produced about 5.4 million tons of food, including cereals, soybeans and potatoes, down from 5.9 million tons it produced in 2014, the FAO said on Wednesday.

According to FAO estimates, the country was facing a shortage of 394,000 tons of cereal, the biggest gap since 2011-2012.

“The country’s food security situation is expected to deteriorate from the previous year when most households were already estimated to have poor or borderline food consumption levels,” FAO said in a statement.

In May, the United Nations warned of a looming food crisis in North Korea due to drought, which the country’s official media described as the worst in 100 years.

The lack of rain was believed to have compounded chronic food shortages in the isolated country, which has seen external aid decline in recent years.

Poor rainfall and low availability of water for irrigation caused the production of paddy rice, the country’s main staple, to drop by 25 percent to 1.9 million tons, FAO said.

Production of corn, the country’s second-most-important crop, was estimated to have decreased by 3 percent to 2.29 million tons despite an expansion in planting, it said.

However, the production of more drought-resistant soybeans, which are the main source of protein in North Korea, increased by 37 percent, to 220,000 tons, FAO said.

The output of other cereals such as sorghum, millet and buckwheat almost tripled compared to 2014, FAO said.

Limited supplies of fertilizer and fuel last year also contributed to the lower crop production in 2015, FAO said.

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