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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Average nationwide precipitation in North Korea between January to mid-May was at its lowest since 1917, the country’s Rodong Sinmun reported Friday, with the change in climate said to be resulting in difficulties in rice planting and in the water supply.
An average of 56.3 millimeters of rain fell across the country between January and May 15 this year, section chief of the DPRK’s State Hydro-meteorological Administration Dr. Pang Sun Nyo said in a recent interview with the newspaper, which serves as the chief organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).
“This is the lowest-level rainfall for the same period since 1917,” Pang said, stressing that figure represented just 39.6 percent of the DPRK’s average annual precipitation.
Pang said it is expected to rain twice by the end of May due to the influence of a trough of low pressure, while adding that the amount of rainfall would not be sufficient to “overcome the drought.”
“The weather conditions are expected to continue until early June,” she added.
The Rodong’s coverage comes just two days after the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that “severe drought has been lingering in all parts of the DPRK,” and that the national average rainfall from January to early May was 54.4 millimeters — the lowest since 1981.
The media also warned that the average precipitation from January to May will be the “lowest figure since meteorological observation” if rainfall in the last ten days of the month failed to reach 50 percent of average rates.
Friday saw the North Korean daily newspaper devote the entirety of its third page to the drought, with a headline calling on citizens to “turn out in the struggle to prevent drought damage vigorously.”
In an interview with the Rodong, department director at the Ministry of Agriculture Ju Chol Gyu also said the problems were being compounded by a lack of water in lakes and reservoirs.
These circumstances, Ju added, were “creating difficulties in transplanting rice and ensuring water supplies.”
“The drought is also having a huge impact on the cultivation of farm products including wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, and beans,” he continued, reporting that “drought damage” has been observed in regions with low rainfall including North and South Hwanghae provinces.
The DPRK Ministry of Agriculture has stressed securing water as a priority to prevent drought damage to crops, the Rodong reported.
“Meanwhile, efforts and means are being fully mobilized into irrigating the fields of wheat, barley, and corn which have begun to be drought-stricken,” the article stated.
Entire units of agricultural production were required to “re-establish a plan for rice planting realistically and concretely in accordance with the conditions of water supply and growth state of rice seedling.”
Head of the Academy of Agricultural Science Kim Song Jin was quoted as stressing the “importance of actively adopting advanced farming methods and use the water more effectively.”
Friday’s report also comes amid a spate of articles in the ruling party organ calling on the public to take action to prevent the drought from devastating the country’s agriculture.
“It is worth noting that the nation’s most authoritative media outlet Rodong Sinmun is mentioning drought damage to crops almost daily,” Minyoung Lee, an analyst for NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
“However, we should also note that the overall message is focused on farmers’ efforts to prevent drought damage and not on the extent of the damage itself,” Lee continued. “This suggests the North is concerned but remains confident about situation management, at least for now.”
Thursday also saw the state-run Korean Central Television (KCTV) air footage showing progress in rice planting in North and South Hwanghae provinces.
The South Pyongan province’s irrigation management office had provided water for farming “at the right time” establishing plans on water supply “precisely” in accordance with the fall in precipitation, the anchor reported.
KCTV on Wednesday also broadcast an interview with Jon Kwang Hyok from the Academy of Agricultural Science discussing “agricultural and technological measures in response to recent growth conditions of major crops and weather conditions.”
The official shared ways to prevent damage to crops, emphasizing that farmers should reduce water consumption as much as possible to overcome the ongoing issue.
Jon, notably, said the growth of rice seedlings across the country appeared to be better compared to the previous year, though some areas were reported to have underperformed due to low temperatures and strong winds in April.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: DPRK Today