28 January 2020
North Korea's food output is said to have fallen by more than half a million tons last year compared to 2017. Photo: Reuters
North Korea's food output is said to have fallen by more than half a million tons last year compared to 2017. Photo: Reuters

N Korea warns of food crisis; blames weather, UN sanctions

North Korea has warned that it is facing a food shortfall of some 1.4 million tons this year and that it has been forced to almost halve rations, Reuters reports, citing a memo to the United Nations.

Blaming high temperatures, drought, floods and UN sanctions for the food problem, the memo from the North Korean mission to the United Nations called for international help to redress the situation.

“The DPRK government calls on international organizations to urgently respond to addressing the food situation,” read the North Korean memo, which the country’s UN mission described as a follow-up to joint assessment with the World Food Programme between Nov. 26 and Dec. 7, 2018. 

According to the memo seen by Reuters on Thursday, North Korea’s food production last year was 4.951 million tons, 503,000 tons down on 2017.

North Korea said it will import 200,000 tons of food and produce about 400,000 tons of early crops, but that it would still be left with a gap.

The shortfall has forced the government to cut daily rations to 300 grams per person, from 550 grams, from January, according to the memo.

The release of the undated two-page memo by the North Korean mission to the UN comes ahead of a second summit next week between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

UN officials and aid groups in North Korea are consulting with the government to “further understand the impact of the food security situation on the most vulnerable people in order to take early action to address their humanitarian needs,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.

He said the UN and aid groups were only able to help one third of six million people estimated to be in need last year due to a lack of funding. A UN appeal for US$111 million in 2018 was only a quarter funded, Dujarric said.

The United Nations estimates a total of 10.3 million people – almost half the population – are in need and some 41 percent of North Koreans are undernourished, Dujarric said.

Along with extreme weather, the North Korean memo also blames UN sanctions for restricting the delivery of farming materials and hindering fuel supply for the agricultural sector.

The 15-member UN Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Humanitarian aid nearly ground to a halt last year as the US stepped up the enforcement of the UN sanctions, even though a UN panel has said sanctions “are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population.”

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