Food shortage fears as 'worst drought in century' hits North Korea

SEOUL - North Korea has been hit by its worst drought in a century, state media said yesterday, sparking fears of worsening food shortages in the impoverished communist country.

The North's main rice-growing provinces - South Hwanghae, North Hwanghae, South Pyongan and South Hamgyong - have been badly damaged by a severe drought, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

"The worst drought in 100 years continues in the DPRK (North Korea), causing great damage," it said.

The agency said more than 30 per cent of padi fields across the country were "parching up", with almost no rainfall recorded in South and North Hwanghae provinces. "The water level of reservoirs stands at the lowest, while rivers and streams (are) getting dry," it said.

Last week, the South's Unification Ministry said the North's crop production could fall by as much as 20 per cent from last year if the shortage of rainfall lasts until early next month.

"The concern is going to grow week by week until we get closer to the traditional July harvest," Mr David Kaatrud, a director of the World Food Programme, told Yonhap News Agency last week.

He added that the United Nations food agency is gearing up to send emergency assistance should the situation worsen.

North Korea has suffered regular chronic food shortages - hundreds of thousands are believed to have died during a famine in the mid to late 1990s - with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement.

UN figures show up to 70 per cent of the country remains food insecure and 28 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'Food shortage fears as 'worst drought in century' hits North Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe