Archive for the ‘UN Food and Agriculture Organization’ Category

Food distribution to resume for the first time in seven years

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

A month into Kim Jong-un’s ascension to power, it is reported that food distribution is likely to resume nationwide in North Korea.

Many experts evaluate this as a symbolic measure to propagate the construction of a powerful economy and improve the lives of the people. For the North Koreans, the most apparent and obvious economic accomplishment is the improvement of the food situation. Thus, North Korea is most likely to take action to normalize food rations as its top priority.

According to a statement made by a South Korean government official on January 20, “Kim Jong-un and his leadership will begin the food distribution as a way to prove to its people about changes forthcoming in the new regime.”He also added, “After years of propagation for the building of a strong and prosperous nation, they must demonstrate it to the people with noticeable results.”

The amount of rations to be provided is still unclear. However, the source emphasized that it was very likely for rice rations to resume, especially with the approaching national holidays, such as the Lunar New Year and Kim Jong-il’s birthday (February 16).

He also commented that “the food distribution will be a nationwide movement and the food ration system will go into effect based on the distribution network of available food supply.”

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), North Korea’s food production in 2011 compared to the previous year rose by 8.5 percent, sitting at about 5.48 million tons (of rough grains or 4.66 million tons of milled grains).

The minimum amount of food consumption in North Korea is 5.4 million tons, but a shortage of about 400,000 tons is expected, including the international food aid and industrial food imports. Among the recent years, this marks the largest deficiency in food supply.

However, such shortages can be overcome with additional food imports and distributing mainly rice reserves.

The last national food distribution in North Korea was in 2005, seven years ago.

North Korea is also likely to exert more effort in food processing production to improve the distribution of daily necessities. With relatively little dependence on raw material imports, North Korea is planning to improve the food situation through expanding the food processing production in agricultural, fishery, and livestock industries, with less competition with Chinese products.


DPRK 2011 food shortage debate compendium

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

UPDATE (2012-2-1): Karin Lee of the National Committee on North Korea wrote a great summary of the DPRK’s food situation in 2011:

In December 2010, North Korea began asking multiple countries for food aid. Its request to the U.S. came in early 2011, but it wasn’t until December 2011 that a deal seemed close, with the U.S. prepared to provide 240,000 metric tons (MTs) of assistance. Kim Jong Il died soon after this news hit the press, and details of the potential deal were never announced.

In the ideal world, Ronald Reagan’s “hungry child” knows no politics. But the case of North Korea is far from ideal. The U.S. government states it does not take politics into consideration when determining whether to provide aid to North Korea. Instead, the decision is based on three criteria: need in North Korea, competing demands for assistance, and the ability to monitor aid effectively. Yet these three criteria are subjective and tinged by politics.

In 2011 a succession of four assessment delegations (one by U.S. NGOs, one by the U.S. government, one by the EU and one by the UN) visited the DPRK. All found pretty much the same thing: widespread chronic malnutrition, especially among children and pregnant or lactating women, and cases of acute malnutrition. The UN confirmed the findings late last year, reporting chronic malnutrition in children under five in the areas visited — 33% overall, and 45% in the northern part of the country.

Some donors responded quickly. For example, shortly after its July assessment, the EU announced a 10 Million Euro donation. Following its own May assessment, however, the U.S. government was slow to make a commitment. Competing demands may have played a role. In July, the predicted famine in the Horn of Africa emerged, prompting a U.S. response of over $668 million in aid to “the worst food crisis in half a century.” While there was no public linkage between U.S. action on the African famine and inaction on North Korea, there could have been an impact.

But the two biggest factors shaping the U.S. government’s indecisiveness continued to be uncertainty about both the severity of the need and the ability to establish an adequate monitoring regime. At times, South Korean private and public actors questioned the extent of the North’s need. Early on, a lawmaker in South Korea asserted that North Korea already had stockpiled 1,000,000 metric tons of rice for its military. Human rights activist Ha Tae Keung argued that North Korea would use the aid contributed in 2011 to augment food distributions in 2012 in celebration of the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung and North Korea’s status as a “strong and prosperous nation.” According to Yonhap, shortly after the U.N. released the above-noted figures, South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik called the food situation in North Korea not “very serious.”

South Korea’s ambivalence about the extent of the food crisis was noted by Capitol Hill, exacerbating congressional reluctance to support food aid. A letter to Secretary Clinton sent shortly before the U.S. assessment trip in May began with Senators Lieberman, McCain, Webb and Kyl explaining they shared South Korean government suspicions that food aid would be stockpiled and requesting State to “rigorously” evaluate any DPRK request for aid. With the close ROK-U.S. relationship one of the administration’s most notable foreign policy accomplishments, such a warning may have carried some weight.

Monitoring is of equal, if not greater congressional concern. Since the 1990s U.S. NGOs and USAID have worked hard with DPRK counterparts to expand monitoring protocols, and conditions have consistently improved over time. In the 2008/2009 program, the first food program funded by the U.S. government since 2000, the DPRK agreed to provisions such as Korean-speaking monitors. The NGO portion of the program was fairly successful in implementing the monitoring protocol; when implementation of the WFP portion hit some bumps, USAID suspended shipments to WFP until issues could be resolved. The DPRK ended the program prematurely in March 2009 with 330,000 MT remaining.

In 2011 the Network for North Korean Human Rights and Democracy conducted a survey of recent defectors to examine “aid effectiveness” in the current era. Out of the 500 interviewees, 274 left the DPRK after 2010. However, only six were from provinces where NGOs had distributed aid in 2008/2009. Disturbingly, of the 106 people interviewees who had knowingly received food aid, 29 reported being forced to return food. Yet the report doesn’t state their home towns, or when the events took place. Unfortunately such incomplete data proves neither the effectiveness nor ineffectiveness of the most recent monitoring regime.

Some believe that adequate monitoring is impossible. The House version of the 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Act included an amendment prohibiting the use of Food for Peace or Title II funding for food aid to North Korea; the amendment was premised on this belief. However the final language signed into law in November called for “adequate monitoring,” not a prohibition on funding.

The U.S. response, nine months in the making, reflects the doubts outlined above and the politically challenging task of addressing them. It took months for the two governments to engage in substantive discussions on monitoring after the May trip. In December, the State Department called the promised nutritional assistance “easier to monitor” because items such as highly fortified foods and nutritional supplements are supposedly less desirable and therefore less likely to be diverted than rice. The reported offer of 240,000 MT– less than the 330,000 MT the DPRK requested – reflects the unconfirmed report that the U.S. identified vulnerable populations but not widespread disaster.

In early January, the DPRK responded. Rather than accepting the assistance that was under discussion, it called on the United States to provide rice and for the full amount, concluding “We will watch if the U.S. truly wants to build confidence.” While this statement has been interpreted positively by some as sign of the new Kim Jong Un regime’s willingness to talk, it also demonstrates a pervasive form of politicization – linkage. A “diplomatic source” in Seoul said the December decision on nutritional assistance was linked to a North Korean pledge to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Linkage can be difficult to avoid, and the long decision-making process in 2011 may have exacerbated the challenge. Although Special Representative Glyn Davies was quick to state that “there isn’t any linkage” between the discussion of nutritional assistance and dialogue on security issues, he acknowledged that the ability of the DPRK and US to work together cooperatively on food assistance would be interpreted as a signal regarding security issues. Meanwhile, the hungry child in North Korea is still hungry.

UPDATE 75 (2011-12-5): The ROK will donate US$5.65 million to N. Korea through the UN. According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Monday it will donate US$5.65 million (about 6.5 billion won) for humanitarian projects in North Korea through the U.N. body responsible for the rights of children.

The donation to the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, will benefit about 1.46 million infants, children and pregnant women in North Korea, according to the Unification Ministry, which is in charge of relations with the North.

Seoul’s contribution will be used to provide vaccines and other medical supplies as well as to treat malnourished children next year, said the ministry.

There have been concerns that a third of all North Korean children under five are chronically malnourished and that many more children are at risk of slipping into acute stages of malnutrition unless targeted assistance is sustained.

“The decision is in line with the government’s basic stance of maintaining its pure humanitarian aid projects for vulnerable people regardless of political situation,” Unification Ministry spokesman Choi Boh-seon told reporters.

South Korea has been seeking flexibility in its policies toward the North to try to improve their strained relations over the North’s two deadly attacks on the South last year.

Despite the South’s softer stance, North Korea recently threatened to turn Seoul’s presidential office into “a sea of fire” in response to South Korea’s military maneuvers near the tense western sea border.

South Korea donated $20 million for humanitarian projects in North Korea through the UNICEF between 1996 and 2009.

Last month, the South also resumed some $6.94 million worth of medical aid to the impoverished communist country through the World Health Organization.

Separately, South Korea also decided to give 2.7 billion won ($2.3 million) to a foundation to help build emergency medical facilities in an industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

UPDATE 74 (2011-12-2): The Choson Ilbo reports that the DPRK’s food prices are rising after the 2011 fall harvest, however, the price increase is not due to a shortage of output, but rather political directives. According to the article:

The price of rice in North Korea is skyrocketing, contrary to received wisdom that it drops after the harvest season. According to a source on North Korea on Wednesday, the rice price has risen from 2,400 won a kg in early October to 5,000 won in late November.

North Korean workers earn only 3,000-4,000 won per month.

This unusual hike in rice price seems to be related to preparation of next year’s political propaganda projects.

A South Korean government official said, “It seems the North Korean government is not releasing rice harvested this year in order to save it up” for celebrations of regime founder Kim Il-sung’s centenary next year, when the North has vowed to become “a powerful and prosperous nation.”

UPDATE 73 (2011-11-24): According to the Daily NK, DPRK television is calling on people to conserve food:

With barely a month left until 2012, the year in which people were promised a radical lifestyle transformation to coincide with the North Korea’s rebirth as a ‘strong and prosperous nation’, programs calling upon people to conserve food are now being broadcast by Chosun Central TV and the fixed-line cable broadcaster ‘3rd Broadcast’.

Chosun Central TV is broadcasting the programs as part of ‘Socio-Culture and Lifestyle Time’, which begins directly after the news on Thursdays at 8:40pm. The majority of the content is apparently now about saving food.

A Yangkang Province source told The Daily NK on Wednesday, “Recently the head lecturer from Jang Cheol Gu Pyongyang Commercial University, Dr. Seo Young Il, has been appearing on the program both on television and the cable broadcasting system, talking about saving food.”

In one such program, Professor Seo apparently noted, “In these days of the military-first era there is a new culture blossoming, one which calls for a varied diet,” before encouraging citizens to eat potatoes and rice, wild vegetables and rice and kimchi and rice rather than white rice on its own, and then adding that bread and wheat flour noodles are better than rice for lunch and dinner.

It is understood that older programs with titles such as ‘A Balanced Diet is Excellent Preparation for Saving Food’ and ‘Cereals with Rice: Good for Your Health’ are also being rebroadcast, while watchers are being informed that thinking meat is required for a good diet is ‘incorrect’.

Whenever North Korea is on high alert or there is a directive to be handed down from Kim Jong Il, both of Chosun Central TV and the 3rd Broadcast are used to communicate with the public. For this reason, some North Korea watchers believe the recent food-saving campaign may reflect a particularly weak food situation in the country going into the winter.

According to the source, one recent program showed a cookery competition involving members of the Union of Democratic Women from Pyongyang’s Moranbong District. During which, one woman was filmed extolling the virtues of potato soup, saying “If we follow the words of The General and try eating potatoes as a staple food, there will be no problem.”

Read all previous posts on the DPRK’s food situation this year blow:



DPRK forests continue to shrink

Friday, June 17th, 2011

UPDATE (2011-6-23): Today the Nautilus Institute sent out more interesting resources on the state of the DPRK’s forests.  Check them out below:

“Forest and Other Biomass Production in the DPRK: Current Situation and Recent Trends as Indicated by Remote Sensing Data”
Power Point Presentation by  Seung-Ho Lee (June 2006)

“Unbearable Legacies: The Politics of Environmental Degradation in North Korea”
Peter Hayes, August 30, 2009

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-17):


Pictured above (Google Earth): A North Korean propaganda slogan on a mountain-side urging “Let’s plant more trees!”

This should be nothing new to regular readers of this site, but according to a recent article by Yonhap:

Deforestation in North Korea is taking place at a rapid pace as people cut down trees for fuel and turn forest into farmland, a report by a state think tank here said Friday.

An average of 127,000 hectares of forest in North Korea have been destroyed on average every year for the past two decades, the Korea Forest Research Institute (KFRI) said in the report based on data by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

I have not been able to locate the report on the KFRI web page.  If any readers are able to locate it, please send it to me.

An earlier report found that in two adjacent biosphere reserves across the border of China and North Korea, over one half of primary forest landscapes have been deteriorated by exploitive uses, including seed harvesting and systematic logging.

You can read a number of previous posts on similar topics here: Ministry of ForestryForestry, and Lumber.


DPRK 2011 foot and mouth disease outbreak

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

UPDATE 6 (2011-4-20): The DPRK is experiencing a new wave of foot and mouth outbreaks.  According to Yonhap:

A new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) occurred in four counties in North Korea last month and infected nearly 300 pigs and cows, a news report said Wednesday.

A total of 141 out of 298 animals died after being infected with the disease, the Voice of America said, citing a North Korean report submitted to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Monday. The news report said Pyongyang quarantined the infected areas in an apparent attempt to stem the spread of the disease.

The North confirmed its first case of the disease in December, and the virus has since spread to six other cities and provinces, Seoul’s Agriculture Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said in February.

Last month, the World Organization for Animal Health said North Korea urgently needed around US$1 million worth of equipment and vaccines to help stem outbreaks of the deadly disease.

The disease does not pose a direct health threat to humans, but affects cows, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed animals, causing blisters on the nose, mouth, hooves and teats.

North Korea has 577,000 heads of cattle, 2.2 million pigs and 3.5 million goats, according to the OIE.

The OIE data mentioned in the above Yonhap story can be found here.

The OIE provides the map below as well as details about the outbreaks:

Three of the four cases take place in North Hwanghae:

Sinphyong county, Myongri district (2011-3-21)

Sangwon county, Rodong-ri (2011-3-16)

Hwangju county, Ryongchon-ri (2011-4-4)

The final case is in Singyo-ri, Kumgang County, Kangwon Province. It reportedly took place on 2011-4-6.

The data is also available here.

UPDATE 5 (2011-3-24): UN FAO Press Release:

North Korea: FAO says urgent vaccine and equipment needed to contain Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Capacity of national veterinary services to manage animal disease must also be strengthened

24 March 2010, Rome/Paris – Around a million dollars of equipment and vaccines are urgently required to help stem outbreaks of deadly Foot-and-Mouth disease (FMD) in North Korea, followed by a more prolonged and concerted effort to modernize veterinary services in the country.

A joint FAO and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) mission travelled to North Korea at the government’s request between 27 February and 8 March. The mission found that the country’s capacity and that of veterinary services to detect and contain FMD outbreaks need significant strengthening — in particular as regards implementing best-practices in biosecurity measures and improving laboratory infrastructure and capacity.

Outbreaks of Type-O FMD have been reported in diverse locations in eight of North Korea’s 13 provinces. To bring the situation under control, the team recommended the following steps:

  • Thorough surveillance to locate and map disease clusters
  • Protecting unaffected farms through movement controls and biosecurity measures
  • Adequate sampling in order to correctly identify the virus strain or strains involved
  • Improving biosecurity measures to prevent further spread of the disease
  • The strategic use of the appropriate vaccines to contain and isolate disease clusters

FAO estimates around $1 million is required immediately for training, supplies and infrastructure, vaccine acquisition and the setting up of monitoring, reporting and response systems.

The FAO-OIE mission visited several collective farms as well as the national veterinary laboratory and various animal health field stations.

Virus identification

FAO and OIE provided guidance to North Korean veterinary authorities on taking and handling of FMD samples — new samples will be collected by North Korea and sent to an international reference laboratory for testing.

Only by accurately typing the virus or viruses involved in the outbreaks will it be possible to identify the most effective vaccine to use against it.

Food security bulwark

FMD does not pose a direct health threat to humans, but affected animals become too weak to be used to plough the soil or reap harvests, suffer significant weight loss, and produce less milk. Many animals are dying from the disease.

Farm animals are crucial to food security in North Korea. Cows and oxen are primarily used for dairy production and are a key source of draft power in agricultural production. Goats and pigs, also susceptible to FMD, are important source of dairy products and meat.

Current North Korea’s livestock population consists of 577,000 head of cattle, 2.2 million pigs and 3.5 million goats.

FMD affects cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, swine and other cloven-hoofed animals. It is highly contagious and spreads through mucus, saliva or body fluids that can contaminate materials such as clothing, crates, truck beds, and hay and be transmitted to other animals.

UPDATE 4 (2011-3-22): Pork prices rising with FMD meat on sale.  According to the Daily NK:

With North Korea seemingly unable to bring an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease centered on the Pyongyang region under control, inside sources have revealed that the price of good pork in the markets is skyrocketing as a result of diminishing supplies, while infected meat is being sold on the quiet for lower prices.

Speaking with The Daily NK on the 22nd, a source from North Pyongan Province explained, “Pork is right now selling for 6,000 won per kilo in the market. The price, which was 2,600 won in the market last December, is climbing all the time, and now is at the point where the average person has no chance of being able to buy it.”

According to sources, the situation is similar in Nampo, where pork was selling for 3,500 won in December, but had reached 6,500 won by February. In Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province, the price had hit 5,000 won by the end of February.

The news of an emerging foot-and-mouth disease problem in North Korea first emerged through sources earlier this year, but the authorities only confirmed it officially and reported control measures via Chosun Central News Agency on February 10th.

According to an official report submitted by the North Korean authorities to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) at around the same time, the outbreak had by then spread to 48 places across much of south and central North Korea, with 15 of those places falling within the Pyongyang administrative region.

The report outlined how North Korea first attempted to combat the outbreak with an indigenously produced vaccine, but this was of limited use. It also noted that official North Korean policy is to bury those animals that die from the disease and quarantine those that are infected.

However, inside sources say that in reality people are digging up buried animals in order to sell the meat in the market at a lower price.

The North Pyongan Province source explained, “Meat infected with foot-and-mouth disease is being sold in the market tacitly; the price of it is somewhat lower. The work of burying pigs with foot-and-mouth disease is being done, he said, but it is said that animals continue to be dug up and are sometimes being sold in the market.”

The source gave the example of a pig farm in Pyongsung, where 6 people dug up previously buried pigs last December to sell in Pyongsung Market. They were selling the meat for 2,000 won/kg, he said, but were caught by the authorities.

The source also revealed that on December 30th, 2010, 500 pigs were buried near Pyongyang, but two days later had disappeared, while in Sinuiju it is said that “If it is buried in the daytime, people say that by that very evening it will appear in the market.”

Of course, the fact is that the North Korean authorities are unable to put in place an efficacious policy to combat the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease or the selling on of infected meat, not least because persons caught for selling infected meat can simply navigate their way out of trouble and go back to their activities.

UPDATE 3 (2011-3-2): A UN FAO team is in the DPRK to inspect the foot-and-mouth outbreak.  According to the Joongang Ilbo:

An official at the FAO was quoted by RFA as saying that the scale and variety of the aid would be determined after discussions with North Korean government officials. The exact itinerary of the group was not released.

The UN food agency also said that along with the team that arrived in North Korea last month, additional officials, including an expert on contagious diseases, would be sent to the area.

The South Korean government has said that it has been monitoring the development of the outbreak. However, the South Korean Ministry of Unification said after North Korea’s official report on the disease that Pyongyang has not made any requests for aid nor did Seoul have plans to offer any assistance.

North Korea announced on Feb. 10 that over 10,000 pigs and cattle had been infected with FMD, prompting North Korean officials to alert the UN of the outbreak.

The North struggled with FMD cases in 2007 and 2008, which led to the culling of thousands of pigs and cattle. During those episodes, the FAO and the South Korean government provided aid.

UPDATE 2 (2011-2-27): The Daily NK reports that the OIE report shows animals are not being culled:

Unlike in 2007, when North Korea reacted swiftly to an outbreak of the disease by culling animals, this time the authorities appear to have reacted poorly despite the fact that the disease has now been found at more than 48 locations in Pyongyang City and Pyongan, Hwanghae and Kangwon Provinces.

According to an OiE report derived from the letter, in which the North finally confirmed the rumored outbreak after a month of silence, Pyongyang has apparently tried to address the situation using a combination of disinfection measures and a domestically produced vaccine, but this has met with little success.

“Given the number of livestock which have died of foot-and-mouth disease, it is uncertain just how far the infection has spread,” Korea Rural Economic Institute Vice-President Kwon Tae Jin explained to The Daily NK. “The small number of infected heads of cattle reported by North Korea is also difficult to accept at face value.”

“If the North Korean authorities have not destroyed the infected cows and pigs in the hope that they will recover, then it is a serious problem. It means we have no idea how far the disease has spread,” Kwon added.

15 of the existing locations in which the disease has so far been detected are in Pyongyang and surrounding areas. In order to combat the spread of the disease to other regions, the authorities are said to have implemented across-the-board restrictions on movement into and out of the city.

However, news of the disease has still not been reported officially, and domestic sources have told The Daily NK that they have not heard anything about it to date.

UPDATE 1 (2011-2-18): DPRK report (below) shows extensive damage from foot-and-mouth disease.  According to Yonhap:

North Korea has reported to a global animal health agency that it had suffered a total of 48 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) since Christmas last year.

The impoverished communist state made the report to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Feb. 8, saying about half of 17,522 “susceptible” pigs had died from the disease.

Only 3 percent of 1,403 cows suspected of being infected had died from the disease, according to the report posted on the OIE Web site, while none of the 165 susceptible goats had died.

At the time the report was filed, no livestock were yet culled as a preventive measure, according to the report created by Ri Kyong-gun, a quarantine director for the Ministry of Agriculture. A map of outbreaks showed the disease had spread out over almost half of North Korea.

“Vaccination has been applied with a locally developed vaccine but was not effective to control the disease,” the report said, adding that the origin of the outbreak remains “unknown or inconclusive.”

North Korea has banned the inflow of pork and beef from South Korea since late last year for fear that the disease — rampant south of the heavily armed border — may spread there.

Despite the measure, the North, which suffers serious food shortages, reported the outbreak to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization earlier this year.

The country said in the OIE report that it has restricted movement and conducted “disinfection of infected premises and establishments” to fight the spread of the animal disease.

In 2007, North Korea suffered similar outbreaks, prompting South Korea to dispatch a team of animal health experts amid a mood of reconciliation.

FMD is highly contagious and affects cloven-hoofed animals like cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep. The disease causes blisters on the mouth and feet of livestock and leads to death. It is rarely transmitted to humans.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-2-18): Below is a map and list of reported foot and mouth disease outbreaks in the DPRK:

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has reported 48 outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The outbreaks are located in:

–Kangwon (Anbyon, Kimhwa, Phangyo, Phyonggang)
–Pyongyang (Sadong, Ryokpo, Rakrang, Kangdong, Mangyongdae)
–Nampho (Nampho and Kangso)
–North Hwanghae (Kangnam, Sangwon, Hwangju, Yonsan, Sinphyong, Suan, Songrim)
–North Pyongan (Thaechon, Pakchon)
–South Hwanghae (Chongdan)
–South Pyongan (Anju, Phyongwon)

The OIE posted a report developed from an official letter sent by the DPRK dated 7 February 2011 and received on 8 February 2011.  You can see the OIE report here.


2010 DPRK grain production estimates inconsistent

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 11-02-07

Evaluations of North Korea’s grain output for 2010, and predictions for 2011, varied considerably between international organizations and South Korean agricultural experts. A recent report from the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) evaluating North Korea’s economy for 2010 and examining the outlook for 2011 revealed that the World Food Program (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated a 3.1 percent growth in North Korea’s 2010 grain production over the previous year, at 5.53 million tons. Based on this estimate, the two international organizations stated, “Because North Korea used more fertilizer than in the previous year, and an improved fuel situation [allowed] the use of more agricultural equipment, harvest conditions have improved.”

These international organizations believe that North Korea’s 24.43 million residents need an annual total of 5.35 million tons of grain, estimating that 4.25 tons (148kg per person) are needed for food while an additional 1.1 million tons are needed to seed future crops, for use in industrial manufacturing, and for livestock feed. Therefore, it was predicted that North Korea’s domestic production will fall 870,000 tons short in 2011. Since Pyongyang is expected to be able to import 330,000 tons of grain this year, it will be left with a 540,000 ton grain deficit.

On the other hand, the (South) Korea Rural Economic Institute and experts from other South Korean agricultural research institutions believe that unfavorable weather conditions in 2010, just like those seen in the South, as well as flooding in North Korea meant that grain production fell off last year, especially since the adverse weather and low temperatures struck during prime growing seasons. Therefore, South Korean agricultural experts estimate that North Korean grain production for 2010 was about 200,000 tons less than the year prior. Increased fertilizer distribution accounted for an additional 100,000 tons, but the damage from flooding cost the North the same in crops, and the shortage of assistance meant an additional 200,000 ton shortage.

South Korea’s Rural Development Association estimates North Korea’s 2009/2010 crop yield at 4.11 million tons, and predicts the 2010/2011 yield will drop to 3.9 million tons. South Korean experts also predict that even with international aid and continuing private-sector grain exports to North Korea, Pyongyang will fall 1 million tons short of grain this year. Not only that, the chances that the North’s grain situation will grow even more severe are significant. Rising international grain prices will heavily burden Pyongyang, and while food prices in North Korea’s traditional markets appear stable following the fall harvest, they have risen steadily, and as the lean season approaches, there is a high likelihood that prices will skyrocket soon.

KINU predicts that if there isn’t any significant domestic political upheaval or any serious clashes with other countries in 2011, North Korea’s industrial sector may be able to boost production. As long as international sanctions continue to be enforced against North Korea, Pyongyang’s reliance on China will continue, but that the forced efforts at self-sufficiency and indigenous development are unsustainable.


DPRK uses KCNA for preemptive “Food CYA”*

Monday, February 7th, 2011

UPDATE 2: KCNA posted its second food “CYA” story on March 16th:

A UN special rapporteur for food issue on Mar. 8 expressed concern about worldwide food price rise.

The rapporteur said that the world is facing the same serious food crisis as in 2008 amid the rise of food prices for eight months on end, adding that this is attributable not only to the natural disasters but to speculation in the financial field.

UPDATE 1: I offered a rhetorical analysis.  Haggard has some data.

ORIGINAL POST: Here is the article from KCNA:

Pyongyang, February 7 (KCNA) — Price of foodstuff is skyrocketing worldwide, sparking serious concern.

The monthly world foodstuff price indices have gone up 3.4 percent in the period from December last year to January this year, said FAO of the United Nations on Feb. 3 quoting a survey data.

This is an all-time high since 1990 when foodstuff price survey kicked off. The price of foodstuff is expected to continue to soar in the coming months.

It is true that global food prices are rising.  Here it seems the North Korean government is both warning its people and deflecting blame for the problem.  Although few North Koreans will have access to the FAO report, KCNA is careful to highlight the foreign source (not Pyongyang). Of course making the announcement will set off a wave of hoarding in the DPRK leading food prices to increase even more.

Despite its claims, the DPRK government does have the power to improve food prices for the North Korean people.  The DPRK could shore up confidence in market institutions; give farmers greater individual incentives rather than emphasizing collective farming; make it easier for food shipments to travel internally, and ease border crossings for food shipments from China.

Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard recently posted data on food price increases in the DPRK.

*”CYA” is “Cover your ass” (‘arse’ for our British friends).


US and DPRK begin another round of food diplomacy

Monday, January 31st, 2011

UPDATE 3: The JoongAng Daily (2/12/2011) reports on comments made by Robert King:

King explained that in the past, the U.S. had agreed to give North Korea 500,000 tons in food aid, but was only able to give 170,000 tons as North Korea refused the rest and ordered foreigners who had entered North Korea to deliver the aid to leave.

The envoy also said that it has not yet been decided whether the U.S. will grant food aid to the North and that three prerequisites must be fulfilled if it does.

The three conditions, he explained, are whether a real demand for food truly exists in North Korea, whether the North’s need for food is on the same level as other countries in need of aid, and whether monitoring of the aid will be securely guaranteed. Only when these three prerequisites are met can the U.S. grant aid, King said.

UPDATE 2: According to the JoongAng Daily (2/9/2011) the North Koreans have made an official request for food aid to the US government:

North Korean deputy ambassador to the UN, Han Sang-ryol, requested U.S. food aid last month through Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, a diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

Local analysts suspect that King, who is currently in Seoul, informed the South Korean government of the request and is discussing a joint response to it.

“Ambassador Han met King in New York on Jan. 14 and requested large-scale U.S. food aid for the North,” said the diplomatic source in Washington.

It is the first time in years that a behind-the-scenes diplomatic discussion between Pyongyang and Washington on aid has come to the surface. U.S. food aid to the North has been suspended since March 2009 after the Kim Jong-il regime rejected a U.S. proposal to increase the number of Korean-speaking food-distribution monitors to make sure aid was getting to the public.

Han told King that the North was willing to enhance international monitoring of food aid “as much as the U.S. wants,” the source said.

King, who came to Seoul on Sunday, started meetings with Seoul officials yesterday, including Wi Sung-lac, the top envoy on North Korean nuclear issues. At a brief media conference after the meeting with Wi, King did not elaborate on the purpose of his visit or his discussion with the South Korean envoy, saying only it was “very good, very serious and a very thoughtful discussion.”

When asked whether food assistance to the North was on the agenda, King said they “talked about a lot of issues.”

“[It is] extremely important for the U.S., as we pursue our policies toward North Korea, to coordinate with the government of South Korea,” King said. “We have a close working relationship, we are able to work together well on issues, we share our analysis, we share our ideas in terms of making progress.”

The official United States stance, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said earlier this month, is that it does not have a plan to resume food aid to the North for now.

“The U.S. does not think the North has met conditions to get U.S. food aid,” the source said.

And even if Washington decides to resume aid, it will take time because of congressional procedures, the source said. But some analysts see the possibility of change, citing some opinions in the U.S. State Department in favor of engaging the North with aid to sway its attitude on other issues, including denuclearization.

UPDATE 1: According to the Donga Ilbo (2/6/2011):

The U.S.-based Radio Free Asia says the U.S. government and nongovernmental organizations are discussing the resumption of food aid to North Korea.

Quoting diplomatic sources in the U.S., the broadcaster said Washington has not decided to resume food aid to Pyongyang but is having many talks and discussions on the issue.

Voice of America said Friday that the World Food Program and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, both of which are under U.S. influence, also plan an additional survey of the North`s food situation for about a month from Feb. 10.

In an interview, Dr. Kisan Gunjal of the food organization said he will survey the North’s food security and crop situations from Feb. 10 to March 12 at Pyongyang’s official invitation.

In a phone interview with The Dong-A Ilbo, an official at a South Korean aid group said, “The U.S. has asked South Korean non-governmental organizations about North Korea’s crop and food supply situations in 2011 since the North’s artillery provocation on Yeonpyeong Island in November.”

Washington, however, remains officially cautious. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told a news briefing Monday that the U.S. government has no immediate plans to provide humanitarian aid to the North.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Donga Ilbo (1/31/2011) the US and DPRK are talking food aid once more:

The U.S. and North Korea have begun their third round of food diplomacy, with Washington considering resuming food aid to Pyongyang.

The U.S. has halted food aid to the North twice since its first provision in 1996 after blaming Pyongyang for diverting the aid.

The North has always asked for food aid first since North Korean leader Kim Jong Il confronted a series of crises in the early 1990s, when the former Soviet Union and China stopped economic assistance to the Stalinist country.

His father and the North`s founder Kim Il Sung died in 1994. When the North was devastated by floods and other natural disasters nationwide, Kim Jong Il ordered state cadres to beg the U.S. for help.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry then formed a committee for flood damage and went hat in hand to Washington. The Clinton administration provided 19,500 tons of food through the World Food Program in 1996, expecting the North to implement the 1994 Agreed Framework and be docile in talks for the repatriation of remains of American soldiers killed in action in the Korean War.

Washington increased its food aid from 177,000 tons in 1997 to 695,000 tons in 1999. In 2000, a joint communiqué between the North and the U.S. was signed.

North Korea, however, diverted the food aid in ignoring U.S. and international principles for humanitarian aid.

As public opinion in the U.S. worsened over the assistance, the George W. Bush administration slashed the aid volume from 350,000 tons in 2001 to 40,000 tons in 2003. The U.S. Congress demanded greater transparency in the distribution of the food aid in 2004, when it passed the North Korean Human Rights Act.

Rejecting the demand, Pyongyang expelled World Food Program staff in 2005. Washington opted not to provide food aid to Pyongyang in 2006.

Flexing its muscles in November 2006 by conducting its first nuclear test, North Korea again requested U.S. aid in 2008. The Bush administration, which was nearing the end of its term, chose to sit at the negotiating table with the North and offered 500,000 tons of food aid through the World Food Program.

The North received 169,000 tons of food by expanding the areas where food distribution is monitored and agreeing to allow more Korean-speaking monitoring personnel.

In early 2009, Pyongyang decided to test the newly inaugurated Obama administration by launching a long-range rocket and preparing for a second nuclear test. In March that year, the North expelled humanitarian aid groups, saying it would not be able to keep its promise of distribution transparency.

In fall last year, North Korea unveiled its uranium enrichment program and showed its centrifuges to the U.S. in a virtual threat to conduct its third nuclear test with uranium bombs if Washington failed to provide food.

What the U.S. will eventually do is attracting interest since South Korea is opposed to aid to the North.

Read the full stories below:
Pyongyang asks U.S. to restore food aid: source
JoongAng Daily
Kim Jung-wook, Moon Gwang-lip

US, N. Korea begin 3rd round of food diplomacy
Donga Ilbo

Radio Free Asia: US, NGOs discussing food aid to NK
Donga Ilbo


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

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

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

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


Pyongayng Tipping Point

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Wall Street Journal
Marcus Noland

North Korea likes to project an image of strength to the world. But back home, there is a serious economic crisis playing out that could have long-term repercussions. Historians may look back and see this as a tipping point.

The crisis originated in November, when the government sprang upon the public a confiscatory currency reform that wiped out household saving and the working capital of traders and entrepreneurs. The value of the North Korean won predictably plunged as people abandoned it for foreign currencies and even physical goods—anything that could preserve value. The second shoe dropped a month later when the state extended its war on privately held capital, banning the use of foreign currencies.

The government’s intent was to reconstitute orthodox communism. Earlier in August, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui, telegraphed the move in an essay extolling the superiority of central planning over the decentralized market—even trashing the notion of giving enterprise managers greater autonomy in the context of a socialist economy. The regime’s basic motive—to crush the market and strengthen direct state control—was confirmed by central bank statements immediately after the reform.

But the policy, which was supposed to constitute the political coming out of expected heir Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s third and youngest son, unleashed extraordinary, though sporadic, protests. The government backtracked, allowed markets to reopen and in February issued an unprecedented apology. Park Nam-ki, a 77-year-old technocrat who upon becoming the Party’s economics chief allegedly vowed to end the “capitalist fantasy,” was scapegoated and reportedly executed.

Once broken, the economy may prove difficult to repair. Prices for goods such as rice, corn, and the dollar rose 6,000 percent or more after the reform. And while prices have come down from their peak as the government has relaxed some of its strictures, they are currently still 600 percent or more above their prereform levels—in spite of the money-supply contraction.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the country is more than one million metric tons short of grain. This estimate is likely exaggerated due to faulty methodology, but anecdotal reports of hunger are emerging from returning visitors and refugee networks. It appears the government persuaded farmers in cooperatives to accept cash in lieu of half of their annual in-kind grain allotment—then rendered the bonus worthless via the currency reform. Farmers are now hoarding grain however they can: The United Nations Development Program reports that post-harvest losses amount to 30 percent. The farm economy has been severely disrupted. But unlike the 1990s famine, which was largely an urban phenomenon and killed perhaps a million people, hunger is now reported in the countryside.

The state’s response to these developments has not been reassuring. After Mr. Park was executed, he was replaced by an octogenarian, Yun Gi Jeong, known primarily as a confidante of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung. The political police have been bureaucratically elevated and placed directly under the National Defense Commission, from where Kim Jong-il runs the state. This is not the behavior of a confident or competent government.

The recent missteps are particularly damaging because they are so obviously self-inflicted and nakedly incompatible with the regime’s narrative that ascribes all the nation’s challenges to hostile foreign forces. A survey of 300 North Korean refugees conducted in November 2008 by Stephan Haggard of the University of California San Diego found that respondents were increasingly accessing foreign sources of news and disinclined to accept the government’s explanations, instead holding it responsible for their plight. The currency fiasco will accelerate these trends.

Widespread disillusion, even dissent, does not guarantee mobilization, however. The same survey found that the population remains atomized and mostly fearful of communicating these views, even to friends and family. But the state can justify its hatred of the market in one respect: People participating in market activities are significantly more likely to communicate their dissent to their peers.

There is no reason to expect that this attempt to revive orthodox communism will succeed. But an influx of aid, which would allow the state to keep goods on the shelves and satisfy key constituencies, would make it easier. It is rumored that Kim Jong-il will visit China later this month and that the Chinese will extract a commitment by the North Koreans to rejoin the stalled Six Party Talks over its nuclear program.

If North Korea does agree, economic distress and the opportunity to wheedle more aid out of China and the United States may explain this change of heart. China has effectively taken up the mantle of the previous South Korean government’s “sunshine policy,” and within the US government there are already discussions of another “food for talks” swap to bring the North Koreans back to the table.

North Korea’s retrograde moves are wrecking its economy and propagating discontent among the masses. But the country is bereft of civil society institutions capable of channeling that discontent into constructive political action. Aid and repression may permit the regime to pursue anachronistic communism for some time, but the next leader will inherit an ultimately untenable situation.


UN World Food Program worried about DPRK

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

According to Reuters:

Countries appear even less willing to give following North Korea’s second nuclear test in May, Torben Due, the U.N. World Food Programme representative in North Korea, told a news conference in Beijing.

“It’s a very sensitive area. I understand to a certain extent why donors are questioning,” he said. “But my angle is as a humanitarian. Being a humanitarian organisation you should look at the needs of the people. WFP does not engage in the political part of it.”

Due said no new donations had been received following that second test.

An appeal for more than $500 million in food aid has been just 15 percent met, meaning a planned relief operation to reach 6.2 million people has been scaled back to target 2 million.

Due, who lives in Pyongyang and was passing through the Chinese capital, told of the human toll of the state’s struggling economy and international seclusion, with mothers and children stunted by starvation.

“We are now in the middle of the lean season in North Korea, where food supplies are low and it’s a very difficult situation for many people in the country,” he said.

“But more importantly it should be noted that we have a situation where a very large part of the population has been undernourished for 15 or 20 years.”

In some parts of North Korea, some women weigh just 45 kg (99 lb) when they give birth, he added, citing a medical survey.

“The children that survive these conditions will be born with compromised immune systems … and that will contribute to their stunting,” Due said. “It’s a problem which goes from one generation to the next.”

Given the DPRK’s prerogatives, however, the US is not inclined to send food aid.  According to the Associated Press:

The United States said Wednesday it is “very concerned” about the North Korean people but cannot send needed food aid without assurances from their Stalinist government that it will reach them.

“We currently have no plans to provide additional food aid to North Korea and any additional food would have to have assurances that it would be appropriately used,” Kelly told reporters.

“We remain very concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people,” the spokesman said.

“But we are very concerned because we need to have an adequate program management in place, monitoring and access provisions and we don’t have that right now,” he added.

He recalled that in March North Korea expelled non-governmental organization (NGO) monitors in line with its decision to reject US food aid.

“At that time we had about 22,000 metric tonnes in storage there. We’ve learned that the DPRK (North Korean) has distributed this food,” Kelly said. 

I have not seen any food prices from North Korean markets in a while.  If anyone has come across any, please send them to me. 

Recent defectors offer a more nuanced account:

The food supply in the North may have improved slightly in the past two years due to better weather, but Jo said food still is hard to come by. “Even last year, we had a campaign in Kangwon province of getting by with two meals a day. Soldiers sometimes would just get three potatoes a day.”

There is a thriving market economy in North Korea at the local level where the average person buys food staples and consumer goods often made in China. Private plots of land are increasingly used for providing food for one’s family, said Cho Myungchul, a researcher who was an economist in the North before defecting to the South 15 years ago. (Reuters)

Read more here:
U.N. says North Korea food aid has dried up
Ben Blanchard

US cannot send food aid to NKorea despites its concerns

Life in North Korea: lies, potatoes and cable TV
Jack Kim