How much food do they need?

A few weeks ago, I speculated that no one knows how much food the North Koreans really need, even the DPRK government.

On one side of the debate, the UN World Food Propgram claims that North Korea has a 1.67 million ton grain shortfall leaving 6.5 million individuals at risk.  These are North Korea’s numbers and the WFP/FAO is required to accept them.

On the other side of the debate, Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard argue the DPRK’s grain shortage is closer to 100,000 metric tons.  The discrepancy arises because the UN’s estimate is based on individuals needing 460 grams of grain per day to sustain life, but in reality, grains are supplemented by potatoes and other vegetables, lowering the amount of aid needed to sustain the population.  Their calculations are explained here.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service and Ministry of Unification buttress the Noland/Haggard assertion that things are not as bad as the UN numbers suggest (Daily NK). 

In an effort to document the state of affairs via field research, the UN WFP is conducting a survey across 50 counties in the DPRK.  According to the BBC:

Staff from the UN World Food Programme have been given rare access to North Korea’s countryside to assess the seriousness of food shortages there.

The audit, being carried out across more than 50 counties, comes at a critical time.

Some recent reports suggest that the country may be on the brink of famine.

North Korea is estimated to have a shortfall of 1.6 million tonnes of grain because of last year’s flood-affected harvest.

But a true picture of the scale of the crisis is very difficult to determine.

Twelve WFP staff and eight US aid agency workers are now fanning out through North Korea, albeit with government minders, visiting hospitals, schools and individual households.

Their work is expected to take two weeks, by which time the world should have a much clearer understanding of the true nature of North Korea’s food crisis.

Here is the World Food Program’s North Korea Page.  I have not found anything on the survey team, methodology, or operations.  I will post something here if I do.

Read the full artilces here:
Balance of Principle and Flexibility Are Needed When Providing Food Assistance to North Korea
Daily NK
Choi Choel Hee
6/16/2008

Asia’s Other Crisis
Newsweek
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
6/26/2008

UN assesses N Korea food supply
BBC
John Sudworth
6/17/2008

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