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North Korea Is Still Running Out of Food

After a brutal summer and drought, North Korea's food supply is in worse shape than usual.
September 21, 2015, 10:30pm
Photo via Flickr user Danumurthi Mahendra

While farmers in the southern province of South Hwanghae reportedly sang and danced to celebrate improving crop conditions this summer, the United Nations is painting a far more bleak picture of North Korea's food supply.

A recent report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is going through a massive drought, which is wreaking havoc on the country's rice, maize, and soybean crops.

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According to the Voice of America, the official broadcaster of the United States federal government, even North Korea's official media admitted that this was "the worst drought in 100 years," and was "causing great damage" to the country's agricultural fields.

The totalitarian state also relies heavily on early-planted crops like wheat, barley, and potato to feed its 25 million inhabitants, and those crops aren't faring much better either. Potato production is down 20 percent from last year and and barley is down 32 percent.


So while tourists from the West continue to feast on a pretend abundance of food on airplanes and propaganda banquets, the regime's own people have seen their daily nourishment reduced twice in the month of July. First, from 410 grams per person per day, to 310 grams and then again to 250—well below the FAO's bare minimum of 600 grams per person per day.

"This drop could be explained by the considerable reduction in the output of the early season crops. The PDS [Public Distribution System] is the main system of availing food to at least 70 percent of the total population (around 18 million people)," the FAO's Country Brief for the DPRK states.

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Because of its agriculture woes, there is an increased need for cereal importation but even those numbers have fallen short of any acceptable standard. According to the FAO, there is now an import requirement of about 421,000 tonnes of cereal, but with an expected import of about 300,000 tonnes of cereals, they are expecting a deficit of 121,000 tonnes.

So while the ruling elite and tourists dine high on the hog in Pyongyang, the vast majority of North Korea's people continue to be deprived of food. And according to the FAO, it looks like it's only going to get worse.

"With drought conditions and floods this season, the food security situation is likely to deteriorate from that of the previous years, when most households were already estimated to have borderline and poor food consumption rates."