Late summer rains and the growing importance of privately produced crops mean North Korea will likely avoid acute food shortages this year despite earlier fears of drought and mounting international sanctions, defectors and experts say.

The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in July of the worst drought in 16 years in the country, saying there were "serious concerns" about a lack of rainfall in key cereal-producing areas.

"People said they delayed planting because it was too dry in the early spring, but right after that it rained," said Kang Mi-jin at the Seoul-based Daily NK, a website run by defectors.