North Korea faces major food shortages

Food shortages in North Korea are narrowing to the lowest level "in many years," two United Nations agencies said on Thursday, while stressing that 84% of households still did not have enough to eat.

North Korea, one of the world's last remaining communist countries, as well as one of the poorest, has chronically been unable to feed its population of 25-million.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that North Korea would need to import 340 000 tonnes of cereals over the 2013/14 marketing year, against a government import target of 300 000 tonnes.

"The resulting 40 000 tonne food deficit – which may grow bigger if the Pyongyang regime does not meet its import target – is the narrowest in many years," the two Rome-based agencies said in a joint report.

Food security
They found that in 2013, total food production in the country had increased by about 5% year-on-year, to just over 5-million tonnes, thanks to "generally favourable weather conditions that resulted in a higher rice crop."

It was the third straight year of growing agricultural output in North Korea.

However, "despite the improved harvest, the food security situation is still unsatisfactory with 84% of households having borderline or poor food consumption," the FAO and WFP warned.

They called for international aid, domestic reforms to modernise farming and provide "better price and market incentives," as well as specific action to address child malnutrition, which "steadily declined over the past 10 years," but remains high. –Sapa-dpa

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