Archive for September, 1997

UN food agencies alarmed at catastrophic impact of drought: 1997

Friday, September 12th, 1997


The United Nations food agencies today expressed “very serious alarm” over food shortages in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) where drought and a destructive typhoon have aggravated the effects of two years of floods.

“These catastrophic events will undoubtedly have serious and long reaching repercussions in the country’s already grave food supply situation,” the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a report on a mission to North Korea.

North Korea will now have to depend to an even greater extent on international assistance for food, agricultural rehabilitation and vital inputs of seed and fertilizers.

“Without these interventions the human consequences are likely to be dire,” the report said.

The mission, which visited North Korea 16-26 August, said drought has devastated crops throughout the country. Typhoon Winnie caused extensive damage last month to rice in coastal areas in the west where tidal waves destroyed dikes and seawater invaded cropland.

“Guarded optimism expressed earlier for some recovery in food production this year is now replaced by very serious alarm at food security prospects for the coming months and year ahead,” the report said.

In preliminary estimates, pending the visit of another FAO/WFP mission to North Korea in connection with next month’s harvest, the report said the country could lose 1.25 million tons of maize even if there is adequate rainfall this month. With rain, the rice crop could be down by 342,000 tons, without rain by 630,000 tons.

“Imports from commercial channels are likely to become increasingly strained due to growing and chronic economic difficulties and the lack of foreign exchange,” the mission said.

“As the general health of the population has now already been highly weakened by the shortage of adequate food in recent years, especially amongst vulnerable groups, the anticipated shortfall this year is likely to have far-reaching implications that go beyond the devastation of 1995 and 1996.”

WFP, which has been providing emergency food aid to North Korea since 1995, has appealed for donations of US$144.1 million to provide the country with 333,200 tons of food during the period between April 1997 and March 1998. Contributions as of 1 September totalled 322,500 tons or 97 percent of the appeal.

The food is being distributed to 2.6 million children aged 6 or younger, some 250,000 farmers and workers and their 850,000 dependants taking part in flood rehabilitation projects and up to one million hospital patients.

The UN agencies say the ability of North Korea to provide adequate food to its population continues to be hampered by two basic facts: the resources it has available to produce food domestically and the ability of the economy to provide inputs for agriculture and supplement the food supply with imports when there are production shortfalls.

According to the FAO/WFP report, future food security in the country depends as much on general economic performance as on efforts to increase output in agriculture.