According to Yonhap:
The North’s corn crop for this year is estimated to be less than 1.5 million tons, considerably down from the 2.5 million to 3 million tons it usually garners, said Kim Soon-kwon, a leading corn biologist and head of the International Corn Foundation. The forecast yield portends a severe food shortage in the country where corn is believed to make up 40 percent of the total food supply.
“Of all the corn harvests I’ve seen while visiting North Korea over the past 12 years, this year’s crop was the worst,” Kim said over the telephone from China where he was staying after last week’s trip to the North.
During the Sept. 12-16 trip, he surveyed corn farms on the outskirts of Pyongyang and around Mount Myohyang and found a widespread shortage of fertilizer had slowed corn growth. Also, a drought in July — a critical period for the crop — followed by heavy downpours further damaged corn fields, he said.
“Corn needs fertilizer more than any other grain,” Kim explained. “The fact that the fertilizer had not been provided appropriately because of the limbo in inter-Korean relations is a major factor in the bad crop.” said Kim, who spent 17 years in Africa helping develop higher-yield corn seeds and spreading farming technologies.
Since 1999, the South Korean government has provided an average 300,000 tons of fertilizer worth 96 billion won (US$77 million) to the North every year to help ease the country’s chronic food shortages. But the aid was suspended after conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office last year, linking inter-Korean aid to progress in North Korea’s denuclearization.
North Korea’s own fertilizer output is estimated at less than 500,000 tons a year, about a third of the 1.5 million tons the country needs for its grain farming, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
Aid activists from World Vision, who visited North Korea last month, said rice paddies were more yellow than green this year due to a fertilizer shortage, which will equate to low yields in the harvest season.
Seoul expects the North will fall more than one million tons short of the 5.48 million tons of food needed to feed its population of 24 million this year.
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N. Korean corn crop to fall by 40 percent: agronomist