N Korean harvest cannot avert food crisis: U.N.
By Amabelle Layug
HONG KONG, China -- Despite a substantial growth in food production, North Korea will still require food assistance for 2002, according to the United Nations.
A joint crop and food supply assessment mission to North Korea by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) reported that North Korea's food production is expected to fall below the minimum food needs of the country,
The news comes as a harsh blow to the country, given this year represented the best harvest in six years.
"The country will again have to depend on substantial external food assistance for next year as its capacity to import commercially remains highly constrained," the two agencies concluded in a report.
The agencies also stressed the need for a positive response from the international community, as millions of North Koreans faced starvation.
The FAO and WFP said cereal deficit for 2001/02 (November to October) is estimated at 1.47 million tons, compared to 2.2 million tons in the previous year.
And with commercial imports anticipated at 100 000 tonnes, the agencies estimated that 1.37 million tons will need to be covered by food aid and food imports.
"Based on vulnerability analysis and existing targeting capacities, the Mission recommends the mobilization of 525,000 tons of food aid in cereals and 85,000 tons of other food items during 2001/02 for the population groups who are particularly at risk," the agencies reported.
Favorable weather conditions from mid-June through August, international assistance with the provision of fertilizers, availability of farm machinery and other inputs, and increased budgetary allocation for agriculture contributed to the bumper crop.
But recurring droughts and floods, shortages of fertilizer, and unavailability of farm machinery still posed a stumbling block to the country's food production growth, the agencies said.
The population groups most at risk include a large number of children, old people, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
"The crucial food aid safety net needs to be maintained until sustainable food security is achieved through the recovery of the economy and the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector, for which substantial international assistance will be needed," the report said.
The agencies have sent a joint crop and food supply assessment mission to North Korea from September 25 to October 5 to study its 2001 crop harvest and forecast 2002 winter/spring crops such as wheat, barley and potato.
WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency against global hunger and is tasked with feeding most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
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