North Korea facing structural food deficit

By Jonathan Calkins
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 3, 2012
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Experts believe that chronic food shortages in the DPRK have merely been exacerbated, not caused, by the current severe drought plaguing the country.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is experiencing what experts believe is the nation's most severe drought in living memory. [File photo]

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is experiencing what experts believe is the nation's most severe drought in living memory. [File photo]  

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), one of a growing number of states now receiving international food aid, is experiencing what experts believe is the nation's most severe drought in living memory.

According to Pyongyang state media, rainfall in regions near the country's western coastline has been 90 percent lower than the seasonal average.

Most agriculture production in the DPRK is concentrated at state-run farms, and nearly every square meter of arable land is under cultivation.

Private food production is on the rise and often sees better results than public farms, but is unofficially tolerated by the central government in small areas which are often no larger than 100 square meters.

A recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report said that the ongoing drought has affected 196, 882 hectares (486,298 acres) of land, which accounts for nearly 17 percent of the country's total farmland. The report also states that 16 million people, roughly two-thirds of the country's total population, depend on state-rationed daily food supplies.

While the government has failed to signal its willingness to reform the agricultural sector to improve production yields, it has acknowledged the current food shortage, the U.N. said.

While malnourishment often results from a severe water shortage, Dr. Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General of the NGO Welthungerhilfe, said at a press conference at the German Embassy in Beijing that he believes the DPRK's food shortage is chronic in nature, and is the result of underdeveloped food production and distribution channels. Jamann had just returned from a week-long visit to the reclusive state where he visited nine locations over five days and helped local governments improve their farming techniques.

Dr. Jamann believes that a lack of modern irrigation technologies contributes to the problem, and has created a structural food deficit that has left 20 percent of the county's children malnourished.

He also explained that Pyongyang will become more dependent on international food aid despite a previous international consensus that foreign NGOs would be encouraged to leave the country as Kim Jong Un finishes consolidating his power base.

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