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Severe spring drought worsens food situation in DPR Korea, UN agencies warn

Severe spring drought worsens food situation in DPR Korea, UN agencies warn

A three-month spring drought has seriously aggravated the already precarious food situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, two United Nations aid agencies warned today.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) say in a joint special report that food aid is "imperative" in order to avert further hardship. They also urge the international donor community to immediately provide more food to the country.

According to the report, the drought's effect on domestic food production is expected to have "dire consequences for the food security of the population" prior to the autumn harvest of the main rice and maize crops. The report is based on the findings of a joint crop and food supply assessment mission conducted from 23 June to 3 July.

A protracted dry spell between March and mid-June - the longest spring drought on record for many parts of the country - depleted rivers and reservoirs, and crippled irrigation systems. It delayed planting, forced the abandonment of large tracts of cultivated farmland, and drastically reduced agricultural yields.

As a result, WFP and FAO said the Government's Public Distribution System planned to reduce the individual daily ration to just 150 grammes for the remainder of the 2000/2001 marketing year (November/October), down from the 215 grammes provided during the last eight months. The two agencies further warned that the cooperative farms, which account for the bulk of domestic production, might not be able to supply the distribution system with enough food to help it meet even this target.

Taking into account the cereal imports contracted and food aid already delivered or pledged by donors, the country faces an uncovered food deficit of 564,000 tonnes for the remaining four months of the 2000/2001 marketing year, the agencies say. Given the unfavourable prospects for the main harvest in October, a large volume of food aid and concessional imports is also expected to be required in 2002.