North Korea's food production falls for the first time since 2010, hunger worsening: UN

A man walking next to a field in the suburbs of Pyongyang.
A man walking next to a field in the suburbs of Pyongyang. PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Food production in North Korea has fallen for the first time since 2010, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, warning that it expects worsening hunger as the country struggles with poor rainfall.

In 2015, North Korea produced about 5.4 million tonnes of food, including cereals, soybeans and potatoes, down from 5.9 million tonnes it produced in 2014, the FAO said on Wednesday (April 27).

According to FAO estimates, the country was facing a shortage of 394,000 tonnes of cereal, the biggest gap since 2011/2012. "The country's food security situation is expected to deteriorate from the previous year when most households were already estimated to have poor or borderline food consumption levels," FAO said in a statement.

In May, the United Nations warned of a looming food crisis in North Korea due to drought, which the country's official media described as the worst in 100 years.

The lack of rain was believed to have compounded chronic food shortages in the isolated country, which has seen external aid decline in recent years.

Poor rainfall and low availability of water for irrigation caused the production of paddy rice, the country's main staple, to drop by 25 per cent to 1.9 million tonnes, the FAO said.

Production of maize, the country's second most important crop, was estimated to have decreased by 3 per cent to 2.29 million tonnes despite an expansion in plantings, it said.

However, the production of more drought-resistant soybeans, which are the main source of protein in North Korea, increased by 37 per cent, to 220,000 tonnes, the FAO said.

The output of other cereals such as sorghum, millet and buckwheat almost tripled compared with 2014, the FAO said.

Limited supply of fertiliser and fuel last year also contributed to the limited crop production in 2015, the FAO said.