DPRK 2012 drought compendium (UPDATED)

Pictured above: South Hwanghae, the DPRK’s “rice bowl”

UPDATE 11 (2012-8-2): DPRK cuts official food rations. According to the Daily NK:

World Food Programme reports during the month of July, North Koreans received only half the amount of recommended food, rations have been reduced down to half what they should be 300 grams per day.

Between drought and flood damage, crops have suffered and the distribution system is failing to meet the needs of the people.

Due to unrelenting poor weather condition this past July, North Korean food rations per person, already at the minimum recommended amount, were cut in half.

United Nations affiliated organization, the World Food Programme (WFP) recorded that from July 1st until the 15th, food distribution in North Korea was 370 grams per person per day, but during the second half of the month rations were reduced to a mere 300 grams, revealed a Voice of America broadcast two days ago. The World Food Programme puts the recommended amount of food per day at 600 grams minimum.

According to a North Korean based-WFP local official, rations consist of 20-30% rice and 70-80% corn. During the summer, barley, potatoes, wheat and other crops are included in the distribution.

From January until March, rations were maintained at 395 grams per person, and in April they were increased to 400 grams. In May, rations were reverted back to 395 grams and June again saw a slump, down to 380 grams per person.

The WFP attributes the decline in rations to various natural disasters, such as drought and flooding have led to extensive damage of cropland across North Korea.

The WFP estimates these ration shortages will continue to be severe until harvest time arrives in November.

The flip side of this story is that North Koreans obtain the majority of their food from private and black markets.

The Daily NK tracks rice prices in the DPRK here.

Read the full story here:
WFP Reports July Rations Cut in Half at NK
Daily NK
Kim Tae-hong

UPDATE 10 (2012-6-21): Although the drought was initially reported in North Hwanghae Province, the shortage of water is causing additional problems (electricity generation) in other parts of the country. According to the Daily NK:

The source believes that it is primarily the failure of the newly completed hydroelectric power station at Heecheon in Jagang Province to reach official expectations that is causing the problem. It has been known for some time that water levels behind the dam at Heecheon are insufficient to meet electricity generation targets.

However, there are other reasons for the current state of affairs, notably events for the 10t0th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and the period of mass mobilization for farming.

According to the source, “Because they wanted it for the April events, most of the electricity coming to Pyongyang went to the Mansudae and Central districts, while the places where most people actually live didn’t get regular supplies. Then in May they started sending most of it to cooperative farms in North Hwanghae Province for the mass farming mobilization.”

Currently, residential areas of the capital are receiving electricity two or three times a day for an hour or two at a time, meaning anything from three to five hours of power per day.

UPDATE 9 (2012-6-19): Yonhap reports that Seoul believes the drought’s effects on food production are not as serious as others claim:

Food shortages in North Korea do not seem to be as serious as expected while the country grapples with a months-long drought, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Tuesday, in a blunt assessment that contradicts warnings from United Nations agencies.

Poverty-stricken North Korea appears to face another bleak year with its farm industry hit by an unusually long drought, particularly in the western areas, the North’s state media recently reported, raising concern it could exacerbate its food shortages.

Asked whether South Korea will consider resuming its state food aid to the North if the drought further worsens, Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae replied, “Our general assessment is that (the North’s food situation) is not so serious as to fall into a level of crisis.”

“At present, no plan is in the offing with regard to government-level food assistance to North Korea,” Cho said.

Last week, U.N. agencies operating inside North Korea reported that millions of North Korean people are suffering from chronic food shortages and dire health care, appealing for the world to raise funds to provide food to the impoverished state.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday that the North’s key breadbasket areas including North Hwanghae Province have been hit by an unprecedented drought.

KCNA added that “crops are withering” due to the most serious drought in 60 years.

The North’s defiant launch of a long-range rocket in April blew up a Feb. 29 deal with the U.S. under which Pyongyang would freeze nuclear and missile tests in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid.

New leader Kim Jong-un has stressed the importance of food production in the two personal statements he has made to the people this year. A bad harvest could deal a blow to his regime as he tries to consolidate his grip on power.

The North has relied on outside food aid to feed its population of 24 million since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s.

South Korea halted its unconditional state aid to the North in 2008, by linking food aid to progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear dismantlement. But Seoul has continued to selectively approve humanitarian and medical assistance to Pyongyang from religious and private aid groups.

The DPRK has yet to formally request any food assistance following the announcement of the drought.

UPDATE 8 (2012-6-5): According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

North Korea is reporting serious drought. North Korea has had over 40 days of dry weather (as of the end of May) and 40 percent of cropland was reportedly damaged from the drought. The west coastal areas were hit the hardest, allegedly the worst drought in fifty years, according the Hydro-meteorological Service of the DPRK. The month of June is also anticipated to be dry without much rainfall, which will likely worsen the already critical food shortage problem in North Korea.

The KCNA released an article on May 24 with a statement from Choe Hyon Su, department director of the Ministry of Agriculture: “West coastal and other areas excluding north mountain areas are suffering damages from forty days of dry weather until today (May 24), and 40 percent of our farmlands are experiencing damages from the drought.”

The extreme drought conditions are expected to intensify until June and cabbages, corn seedlings, and other grains are drying out in the parched and cracked fields. An all-people campaign to overcome the drought situation is currently on-going in the country. Bureaucrats and workers have been mobilized to irrigate farms and ordered to take other necessary measures to prevent further drought damage, state media reported.

In addition, the KCNA reported on May 26 that Choe Yong Rim,the Premier of the DPRK, visited Saenal Farm in Sinchon County and Oguk Co-op Farm in Anak County, South Hwanghae Province to survey the farming situation.

The premier reportedly “highlighted the importance of settling the food shortage in building a thriving nation and called on all officials and other agricultural workers to play their role as those responsible for the nation’s agricultural production.” He also stressed the “need to meet technological requirements for harrowing and winding up the rice-transplanting in [the] right season.”

Furthermore, Choson Sinbo reported on April 24 that North Korea is raising efforts to solve the food shortage problem through increasing fertilizer production and succeeded in “coal gasification,” which is North Korea’s own fertilizer production process.

The process converts coal from a solid to a gaseous state that is similar to natural gas, and can be converted to ammonia that is used to make fertilizer. North Korea has rich deposits of coal and would otherwise have to import natural gas for fertilizer production. However, Namhung Youth Chemical Complex succeeded in its coal gasification process, turning coal to hydrogen gas.

In addition, Hungnam Fertilizer Complex is reported to have succeeded in its brown coal gasification process. The fertilizer production goal for this year from these two facilities is set at 1 million tons, the news reported.

North Korea has widely publicized fertilizer produced by coal as “Juche fertilizer.” North Korea continues to endorse that fertilizer produced from the gasification of coal will serve as a major pillar in building a strong nation along with “Juche steel,” and “Juche textile.”

UPDATE 7 (2012-5-29): According to the Korea Herald:

In at least one area of South Pyongan Province where journalists from the Associated Press were allowed to visit, the sun-baked fields appeared parched and cracked, and farmers complained of extreme drought conditions. Deeply tanned men, and women in sun bonnets, worked over cabbages and corn seedlings. Farmers cupped individual seedlings as they poured water from blue buckets onto the parched red soil.

“I’ve been working at the farm for more than 30 years, but I have never experienced this kind of severe drought,” An Song Min, a farmer at the Tokhae Cooperative Farm in the Nampo area, told the AP.

It was not clear whether the conditions around Nampo were representative of a wider region. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said it had not yet visited the affected regions to confirm the extent and severity of the reported drought.

North Korea has suffered chronic food shortages for the past two decades because of economic and agricultural mismanagement as well as natural disasters. A famine in the 1990s killed an estimated hundreds of thousands of people.

North Korea state media has publicized the drought but hasn’t asked for international handouts. The country’s past appeals for food aid have been met with some skepticism, however, amid worries that aid would be diverted to the military and Pyongyang elite without reaching the hungry.

You can see a satellite image of Tokhae Cooperative Farm here (Googler Earth:  38.786605°, 125.468135°).

UPDATE 6 (2012-5-27): According to Yonhap:

N. Korea steps up fight against drought

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) — North Korea is stepping up its fight against drought as a prolonged dry spell in the rice-planting season could deal a blow to food production and negatively impact the rule of the its new young leader.

The impoverished nation’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper, state television and other media outlets are urging citizens to utilize every possible source of water to irrigate rice paddies, while also offering advice on how to help other crops overcome drought.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Friday that western regions of the North have received little rain for a month since April 26. If no rain falls by the end of the month, it will be the driest May for most western regions of the nation since 1962, the agency said.

KCNA reported Saturday that many people have been mobilized across the nation to minimize damage from the drought and that the cabinet and the agriculture ministry are putting together emergency measures.

The North’s premier, Choe Yong-rim, visited farms in the western Hwanghae Province on Saturday to check the situation, KCNA said. Choe was quoted as urging farmers to finish rice planting successfully, saying resolving food problems is one of the country’s most important issues.

New leader Kim Jong-un has stressed the importance of food production in the two personal statements he has made to the people this year. A bad harvest could deal a blow to his regime as he tries to consolidate his grip on power.

The North has relied on outside food aid to feed its 24-million population since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s.

UPDATE 5 (2012-5-26): According to KCNA:

Koreans Are Out to Fight Drought

Pyongyang, May 26 (KCNA) — Officials and working people across the country are all out to prevent damage by drought.

The Cabinet and the Ministry of Agriculture took emergency measures to prevent the drought-related damage and all sectors and units are meticulously carrying out organizational and political work to fight drought in a massive manner.

Rural areas are pushing ahead with the work to repair and readjust wells, pools and tube-wells, keep water-pumping and dry-field irrigation equipment in full-capacity operation and irrigate all fields with water collected through damming and digging of river-beds.

North Phyongan and Hwanghae provinces are making good use of existing irrigation system while watering the fields prone to drought damage after finishing the repair of pools, tube-wells, etc.

Jongju, Sariwon, Thaechon, Ryongchon, Pongsan and other cities and counties are concentrating labor power on watering the drought-hit fields of corn, potato, wheat and barley first.

Working people and supporters in South Hwanghae and Phyongan provinces are watering lots of fields every day.

Rural farms in Nampho City and Kangwon and South Hamgyong provinces are successfully watering fields by organizing labor forces to suit to their specific conditions and making an effective use of water resources.

The rural farms near Pyongyang are watering the fields through diverse methods including furrow and water-sprinkling irrigation systems after readjusting irrigation facilities.

All rural farms are frequently weeding and ploughing as required by technical regulations in order to keep soil moist, while applying amino acid compound fertilizer and humate good for resisting drought.

UPDATE 4 (2012-5-26): According to KCNA:

Drought Persists in DPRK

Pyongyang, May 26 (KCNA) — West coastal areas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea experience a long spell of dry weather. This is an abnormal phenomenon witnessed in the country in fifty years, according to a report of the Hydro-meteorological Service.

There have been few rainfalls for nearly 30 days in those areas since April 26.

Ri Kyong Ho (39), a farmer, saying,

“Only twenty days has passed since we transplanted humus-potted maize. Due to an unusual drought this year, maize is getting dry, as you can see here. We are doing our best to overcome this long spell of drought.”

Pang Sun Nyo (48), chief of Weather Forecast Office of the Hydro-meteorological Service, saying,

“Most areas of the country, especially the western areas, are in the grip of long drought.

There have been few rainfalls for 25 days since April 27. Although it rained a little, it was not enough to overcome drought.

Starting from April 30, the country experienced the highest daytime temperature. The temperature began to lower a little than an average year from mid-May but has gone up since May 18.

The average evaporation loss is 4 to 8 mm and the humidity of land 60 percent at present.

This abnormal weather phenomenon is mainly due to flow of dry and warm air current into the country from the continents on middle latitudes and the south, which prevents cold air current from the north to the south.

The drought is foreseen to persist until the end of May, affected by high air pressure from the south and East Sea of Korea.”

UPDATE 3 (2012-5-25): According to KCNA:

Long Drought in West Coastal Areas of DPRK

Pyongyang, May 25 (KCNA) — West coastal areas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea experience a long spell of dry weather. This is an abnormal phenomenon witnessed in the country in fifty years, according to a report of the Hydro-meteorological Service.

There have been few rainfalls for about 30 days since April 26.

In this period rainfall was registered 2 mm in Pyongyang, 5 mm in Haeju City, 4 mm in Phyongsong City, 1 mm in Sinuiju City and 0 mm in Sariwon City.

The average evaporation loss is 4 to 8 mm and the humidity of land 60 percent at present.

In case there is no rain until the end of this month, the precipitation of May in the west coastal areas would be registered as the lowest from 1962 downward.

The humidity of land stands at 55 percent and the drought is expected to get more serious.

An all-people campaign for overcoming drought is now going on in the country.

UPDATE 2 (2012-5-22): According to the Daily NK:

There is a growing volume of testimony to suggest that food insecurity in Hwanghae Province is now particularly bad, and in a significant number of areas has tipped over into starvation and death. Much of the evidence for this has been published since May 7th by ASIAPRESS, a Japanese group with video journalists working inside North Korea.

Example interviews published in Korean by ASIAPRESS include a woman in her 40s from South Hwanghae Province who claimed that for her the “situation is more difficult than during the ‘March of Tribulation’,” referring to the famine that killed many hundres of thousands of North Koreans in the 1990s.

“The food situation is worse than it was three years ago,” the woman went on. “The waiting room at the station in Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province is overflowing with beggar children, both boys and girls, younger and older.”

A man in his 30s from South Hwanghae Province also testified similarly, saying that “Malnutrition is getting more prevalent for farmers. The farming is going really badly.”

Another witness, from North Hamkyung Province but with experience of visiting Hwanghae, claimed, “I heard from a Hwanghae Province resident that people dead from starvation are appearing in Haeju every day. It is surprising that something like this can happen in the ‘rice region’; by this standard it seems that the situation in North Hamkyung is actually not that bad.”

ASIAPRESS believes the main causes of the extreme food insecurity in the region to be: ▲ decreased food production due to flooding; ▲ food procurement for Day of the Sun events in other areas, mostly Pyongyang; and additional ▲ market stagnation.

In other words, the testimonies obtained by ASIAPRESS suggest in particular that the authorities have been demanding excessive volumes of food from farms while failing to revive flooded farmland. In essence, food production has decreased but food procurement and removal to other regions has risen.

One farmer from South Hwanghae Province commented, “The floods last year washed away most of the fields in coastal areas. In early spring productivity was particularly bad, because rain hit when the flowers were blooming. In addition, productivity was reduced because we couldn’t get fertilizer and water supplies were dodgy because there was little electricity.”

Commenting on his organization’s major findings, Director Jiro Ishimaru concluded, “The cause of the food crisis in Hwanghae Province cannot be put down to an agricultural slump, but to the exploitation and excessive procurement of the authorities. The reason for the food crisis is man-made.”

UPDATE 1 (2012-5-21): According to KCNA:

Western Area Experiences Drought in DPRK

Pyongyang, May 21 (KCNA) — There has been few rainfalls in the western area of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since April 26.

Most parts of the country, except Ryanggang and Jagang provinces, witnessed a small amount of rainfalls on May 13-14, with no effect on the drought.

Starting from late April, the country experienced the highest daytime temperature. The temperature began to lower a little than an average year from mid-May but has gone up since May 18.

The high temperature has made the rate of overall soil humidity remain under 65 percent.

Water level of the country’s major irrigation reservoirs stands at 55.4 percent on an average. Water storage in Lake Kumsong in South Phyongan Province dropped even to 0.5 percent, in particular.

Affected by alternate high and low pressures, rainfalls are believed to be usual in springs in Korea.

But, in this spring cold air, which should have come towards the south, continues to stay in the north while the warm and dried air persistently come from continents on middle latitudes, causing a long-time drought in Korea.

Such an atmospheric phenomenon is said to last until early June only to cause drought.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-5-11): According to KCNA:

DPRK Experiences High-temperature Weather

Pyongyang, May 11 (KCNA) — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been experiencing exceptionally high temperature weather.

From April 30 to May 9, daytime temperatures hit the record high, with 27 degrees Celsius in Pyongyang, 26.6 in Phyongsong, 27.4 in Sariwon, 26.7 in Haeju, 26.9 in Kaesong and 22. 2 in Nampho.

The high temperatures were believed to be caused by the increased high pressure in the sky above the southern area, which prevented the inflow of cold air from the north.

There have been few rainfalls in the western coastal area of the country.

Until mid-May, the country’s weather will be affected mainly by the high pressure in the southern area and in the Okhotsk.

Thereby, the daytime temperatures are forecast to be higher than the average ones in most parts of the country, except the eastern coastal area, with a small amount of precipitation.

Drought is likely to come to the western coastal area.


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