UN warns of looming food crisis in North Korea

April 16th, 2008 - 6:14 pm ICT by admin  

Bangkok, April 16 (DPA) The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) warned Wednesday of a looming food crisis in North Korea because of a poor harvest and escalating food prices. “The food security situation in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is clearly bad and getting worse,” said Tony Banbury, the agency’s regional director for Asia.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization has forecast North Korea would suffer a food shortfall of 1.66 million metric tons this year because of last year’s heavy floods, which destroyed much of the country’s rice and corn harvests.

Meanwhile, prices of staple foods in capital Pyongyang have doubled over the past year and are now at their highest recorded levels since 2004, the WFP said.

Rice, for instance, now costs about 2,000 won ($14.30 dollars) per kg, up from 700 to 900 won in April last year in a country where the average worker’s salary is 6,000 won per month.

“WFP has long warned that last year’s floods would exacerbate DPRK’s chronic food problem, and we are now seeing the effects in the markets,” said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, WFP’s country director in Pyongyang.

“It is obvious that more food imports and external food aid will be needed this year.”

The WFP estimated that more than 6.5 million people in North Korea suffer from food insecurity, a figure that it said could be expected to rise if action is not taken to address the growing food shortages.

The UN organization has appealed for world support in boosting its food supplies to North Korea, one of the world’s last communist states.

The WFP is facing rising costs on world markets in the purchase of such staple foods as rice, the price of which has more than doubled in the past year.

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