UN update on North Korea’s food situation

From Bloomberg

The country has a grain shortfall of 1.66 million metric tons this year, the United Nations agency said in a statement today, citing figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization. The shortfall was the highest since 2001, it said.

“It takes a third of a month’s salary just to buy a few days’ worth of rice,” Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the WFP’s country representative in North Korea, said in the statement. The situation is “not yet” on the scale of the 1990s famine but “yellow lights have to be flashed,” he added in an interview.

The Asian nation’s food deficit may exacerbate a global grain crisis that has driven prices of wheat and rice to records, stoking inflation and sparking civil unrest. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said April 12 that “hundreds of thousands” may starve worldwide.

Prices of staple foods in the North Korean capital have doubled over the past year following floods last August that reduced agricultural output, the WFP statement said. Last year’s harvest was a quarter less than that gathered in 2006, it said.

The WFP assists about 1.1 million North Koreans at present, while 6.5 million people suffer from “food insecurity,” it said. That “figure can be expected to rise if action is not taken,” the statement said.

Even in normal years North Korea has a deficit of 800,000 to 1 million tons of grain, de Margerie said in today’s interview.

The gap is greater this year because of the flooding and as external assistance has fallen since 2005, when North Korea declared that it could do without humanitarian aid, he said.

People will “resort to any means they can to cope” from growing food at home and trading in the country’s private markets to skipping meals, as many did for long periods in the mid-to-late 1990s leading to high malnutrition rates, de Margerie said.  (Bloomberg)

From Time (AP):

The North’s annual food deficit is expected to nearly double from 2007 to 1.83 million tons, according to U.N. projections.

Reflecting the situation, prices for key staples at food markets have also doubled to reach their highest level since 2004, the World Food Program said. Although the communist North provides some food rations to its people, those who can resort to markets to help make up for lacking state handouts.

The WFP also called on the North to allow aid groups to operate more freely in the country. Countries giving food distributed by the WFP require monitoring by aid workers to ensure that those most in need are being fed.  (Time )

Read the full articles here:
North Korea Faces Food Crisis, UN Agency Warns
Bradley Martin

UN: North Korea Faces Food Crisis
Burt Herman


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