N.Korea faces 542,000 t grain deficit in 2010/11

Acording to Reuters:

North Korea is facing a grain deficit of 542,000 tonnes in the 2010/11 marketing year after the government only partially provided for grain import cover, the United Nations’ food agencies said on Tuesday.

North Korea’s cereal import requirement in 2010/11 is estimated at 867,000 tonnes, while the government plans to import commercially only about 325,000 tonnes, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme said .

“The mission recommended to provide some 305,000 tonnes of international food assistance to the most vulnerable population,” the FAO and WFP said in a report after a joint mission to the country.

According to the New York Times:

Despite a relatively good autumn harvest in North Korea, the reclusive communist nation remains in dire need of food aid, especially for its youngest children, pregnant women and the elderly, according to two United Nations agencies.

In a new joint report, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said that North Korea, even after substantial imports, would have a shortfall in staple crops — mostly rice, grains and soybeans — of more than half a million tons.

The 2010 harvest was 3 percent higher than last year, the agencies said, despite an unusually harsh winter and alternating drought and flood conditions over the summer.

But even in the best of years North Korea is unable to feed itself. Government food distribution provides only half the necessary daily calories, the report said. People are thus left to fend for themselves with small hillside plots, kitchen gardens and the buying of or bartering for food on the black market.

Aid officials have estimated that the food aid program for North Korea was 80 percent underfunded and that nearly half the country’s children are malnourished.

“I saw a lot of children already losing the battle against malnutrition,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, after a visit to North Korea earlier this month.

“Their bodies and minds are stunted, and so we really feel the need there,” she said. , Agriculture is “the main contributor to the national income” in the North, the agencies said, although its percentage of gross domestic product has declined in the past decade to 21 percent from 30 percent. A lack of foreign currency and credit, made worse by international sanctions against the regime, prevented significant imports of fertilizer and pesticides as well as tires and spare parts for farm trucks and tractors.

In remarks before the Group of 20 summit meeting in Seoul last week, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had “very serious concerns about the humanitarian situation” in North Korea, “especially for the very young children.”

Mr. Ban said the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, had pledged to him that the South would provide humanitarian assistance to the North’s children.

The two U.N. agencies said their report, which was released Tuesday, was produced by teams that went to most of North Korea’s principal agricultural regions.

As the teams traveled around, the report said, “it was evident that there were no cereals in stock in the warehouses visited.”

Additional Information:
1. Here is a link to stories about South Korean aid provided this year

2. The DPRK has recently expressed skepticism over the motivations of foreign aid agencies.

3. Here is a PDF of the UN Special Report.  It is full of data and has been added to my Economic Statistics Page.

4. Here is a link to the UN report which you can read on line.

Read the full sotries here:
N.Korea faces 542,000 t grain deficit in 2010/11-UN
Reuters
11/16/2010

U.N. Urges Food Aid for North Korea
New York Times
Mark McDonald and Kevin Drew
11/17/2010

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