47 Views

Late summer rains, private food supplies limit impact of North Korea drought

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang

By James Pearson (LON:PSON)

SEOUL (Reuters) – Late summer rains and the growing importance of privately produced crops mean North Korea will likely avoid acute food shortages this year despite earlier fears of drought and mounting international sanctions, defectors and experts say.

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned in July of the worst drought in 16 years in the country, saying there were “serious concerns” about a lack of rainfall in key cereal-producing areas.

“People said they delayed planting because it was too dry in the early spring, but right after that it rained,” said Kang Mi-jin at the Seoul-based Daily NK, a website run by defectors.

“Crop conditions are fine now,” said Kang, who said she had cross-checked the news of the harvest with several sources still inside North Korea.

Weather data for areas in China that border North Korea’s main crop zones show rains picked up from August, helping to alleviate dry conditions.

U.S. Department of Agriculture satellite images suggest North Korea’s crop yields will be similar to last year, said Kim Young-hui, a North Korean defector and a specialist in the country’s economy at Korea Finance Corp in Seoul.

North Korea experienced a crippling famine in the 1990s when a combination of bad weather, economic mismanagement and the demise of fuel subsidies from the Soviet Union all but destroyed its state-run Public Distribution System (PDS) of rationing.

The FAO report, which described the PDS as the “main source of food” for around 70 percent of the population, said increased food imports would be required to ensure adequate food supplies for the most at-risk groups, including children and elderly.

FOOD SECURITY IMPROVES

However, the rise of privately produced food sold in North Korean markets has slowly overtaken the PDS as the primary distributor of food, a factor which experts say official U.N. reports overlook.

The reports, often produced in conjunction with the North Korean government, may not be able to focus on markets given the political sensitivity of inherently capitalist activity in a state which still outwardly professes to maintain a Soviet-style command economy, experts say.

“Many people rely completely on the markets and off-the-books private farming for their food,” said Sokeel Park of Liberty in North Korea, an organization which aids defectors.

“Corrupt officials will also siphon off government supplies and sell them for profit,” said Park. “This means international agencies’ regurgitation of Pyongyang’s official food data should be taken with a pinch of salt”.

In the years since the famine, farmers have also been granted increasing autonomy at local levels to proactively change crops, staving off the risk of food shortages, and reducing the reliance on imports.

North Korea’s grain imports totaled $26.5 million in 2016, down from $139.2 million in 2012, according to the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. January to June imports this year were just $10.6 million, albeit up sharply on the $3 million over the same period a year go.

Prices in North Korean markets have remained relatively stable and continue to be a reliable source of food, according to defectors who closely monitor North Korean market prices and activity.

The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) said there was still very little direct information available on how important markets are for household food access. WFP was consulting with the North Korean government to carry out more detailed studies on food security later this year, it said in an emailed response to questions.

Another threat to North Korea’s food security was an increase in U.N. sanctions following the country’s sixth and largest nuclear bomb test earlier this month.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously agreed to a range of new measures including imposing a ban on the country’s textile exports and capping imports of crude oil and fuel.

Gasoline and diesel prices rose sharply since the nuclear test, market data analyzed by Reuters on Monday showed.

The sanctions were likely to hit essential items such as oil, sugar, salt, vinegar and milk powder, which are imported, controlled centrally and distributed via state shops at subsidized prices, the WFP said.

But in contrast to more developed countries, agriculture in North Korea relies much more on mass-mobilization of workers rather than mechanization such as harvesters and tractors.

So while a lack of oil would likely slow the harvest, the overall impact would not be significant, according to Linda Lewis of the American Friends Service Committee, an NGO running farm projects in North Korea.

“Fuel shortages are not a new problem, and North Korean farmers are quite resourceful,” Lewis said.

sponsoredArticle = ‘div-gpt-ad-1466339494851-0’;

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Latest Posts

The heartwarming sight of dogs seeing their owners after a long time
Uncategorized
4455 views
Uncategorized
4455 views

The heartwarming sight of dogs seeing their owners after a long time

Editor - December 2, 2017

Our little friends can be so happy to see us again. It seems that seeing each other after a long time evokes the same feelings and emotions…

Unusual business ideas.. for the pet industry!
Uncategorized
7508 views
Uncategorized
7508 views

Unusual business ideas.. for the pet industry!

Editor - November 17, 2017

Are you an animal lover? We from Optionsuniversitystrategist sure are! It's amazing what that does for business, entire new industries are born this way. We know the…

Are you the boss at home? This little girl sure is!
Uncategorized
1188 views
Uncategorized
1188 views

Are you the boss at home? This little girl sure is!

Editor - November 14, 2017

This little girl knows exactly what she wants, do you know what you want as well? Haha what a laugh to see this little bosslady telling her…

In shedding bonds, Fed aims for boring end to crisis-era measures
Finance
78 views
Finance
78 views

In shedding bonds, Fed aims for boring end to crisis-era measures

Editor - October 25, 2017

© Reuters. The Federal Reserve building in Washington By Jonathan Spicer and Ann Saphir NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve is set on Wednesday…

Crude oil gains in Asia with Irma impact and Chinese yuan in focus
Commodities
73 views
Commodities
73 views

Crude oil gains in Asia with Irma impact and Chinese yuan in focus

Editor - October 24, 2017

© Reuters. Crude gains in Asia Investing.com - Crude oil prices gained in Asia on Monday as the impact of Hurricane Irma was not as severe as…

ITG’s Selway drops out of running for key SEC job
Politics
44 views
Politics
44 views

ITG’s Selway drops out of running for key SEC job

Editor - October 24, 2017

ITG's Selway drops out of running for key SEC job (Reuters) - Jamie Selway, the leading candidate to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of…

Tax inversion deals saved U.S. companies $45 million on average: CBO
Stock
90 views
Stock
90 views

Tax inversion deals saved U.S. companies $45 million on average: CBO

Editor - October 24, 2017

Tax inversion deals saved U.S. companies $45 million on average: CBO WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. companies that shifted their tax domiciles abroad, if only on paper, between…

Mnuchin says tax overhaul still in sight for 2017
Politics
148 views
Politics
148 views

Mnuchin says tax overhaul still in sight for 2017

Editor - October 22, 2017

2/2 © Reuters. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walks through the lobby of Trump Tower in New York 2/2 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Comprehensive reform of the U.S. tax…

Trump’s antitrust pick meets with Elizabeth Warren: source
Politics
122 views
Politics
122 views

Trump’s antitrust pick meets with Elizabeth Warren: source

Editor - October 21, 2017

© Reuters. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addresses the audience at the morning plenary session at the Netroots Nation conference for political progressives in Atlanta By Diane Bartz…

Japan firms see U.S., China economies expanding at a healthy clip
Stock
104 views
Stock
104 views

Japan firms see U.S., China economies expanding at a healthy clip

Editor - October 19, 2017

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Japan's national flag is seen in front of containers and cranes at an industrial port in Tokyo By Tetsushi Kajimoto TOKYO (Reuters) -…