North Korea’s crop production for 2017 has been severely damaged in what the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is calling the worst drought in the country since 2001, an alert issued by the FAO said on Thursday.
The dry weather conditions between April and June have led to steep reductions in North Korean crop production in key outputs such as rice, maize, potatoes and soybean and is “threatening food security for a large part of its population” the FAO said.
“So far, seasonal rainfall in main cereal producing areas have been below the level of 2001, when cereal production dropped to the unprecedented level of only two million tonnes, causing a sharp deterioration in food security conditions of a large part of the population,” Vincent Martin, an FAO Representative, was quoted as saying in a press release.
The FAO expects that the areas of North and South Pyongan, North and South Hwanghae and Nampo City – which account for almost two-thirds of the nation’s main season cereal production – to be seriously affected by the lack of rain.
“Rainfall from April to June in key crop producing areas in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were well below the long-term average, severely disrupting planting activities and damaging the 2017 main season crops,” the press release added.
Citing data from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the FAO report says that rain fall is also “considerably lower” than what it was in 2001.
As a result, the FAO says early season crops production levels in 2017 are over 30 percent lower than in 2016, representing an estimated reduced harvest of 310,000 tonnes down from 450,000 tonnes last year.
The alert notes that early season crops only account for 10 percent of the total annual cereal production but says that the harvests are a vital source of food during the lean months, which run from May to September.
Satellite imagery observed by NK News also showed the impacts of dry weather on North Korean reservoirs, water sources, and vegetation.
The FAO, in response, is calling for farmers to receive assistance – particularly with regards to irrigation equipment and practices.
Thursday’s alert was issued through the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS).
North Korean state media has reported on what it has termed an “abysmal” and severe drought throughout May, June and July, but Thursday’s severe alert is the first from a resident humanitarian body. According to reports in the Rodong Sinmun, the government is working to counter the effects.
While it is reporting on the dry conditions, in 2015 North Korea said that it was experiencing the “worst drought in 100 years“.
A FAO/GIEWS update in 2015 however, did not reflect this assessment by state media, though it did warn of worsening conditions than years prior – at least since 2010.
According to the 2017 Humanitarian Needs and Priorities report, published earlier this year, 18 million North Koreans, out of its over 25 million population, remain food insecure.
The annual report is compiled by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), of which the FAO is a member.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: Man pushing his bike in a field, Pyongyang area, North Korea by Eric Lafforgue on 2010-04-30 16:25:19