12/28/2018, 14.04
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Food shortages: Pyongyang acknowledges ‘drawbacks’ in agricultural production

North Korean Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju noted "drawbacks made by some farms and units in the past”. North Korea, which will have to import 641,000 tonnes of food next year, is one of 40 countries – 31 in Africa – in need of external assistance.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea has acknowledged "drawbacks" in its agricultural sector, echoing UN reports of declining crop yields in a country that remains heavily reliant on food imports and aid.

Agricultural production is chronically poor in the North, which has periodically been hit by famine, with hundreds of thousands dying – some estimates say millions – in the mid-1990s.

North Korean Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju spoke of "drawbacks made by some farms and units in the past" at a national meeting of farming officials that took place in Pyongyang this week, state media reported.

Farms "failed to conduct seed production and management in a responsible way and also fell short of doing proper strain distribution," Pak was quoted as saying by North Korea’s KCNA news agency.

He "underscored the need to attain the goal of grain production" set out in a five-year development plan that wraps up in 2020.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said this month that North Korea will need to import 641,000 tonnes of food in the coming year. The figure is up from 456,000 tonnes this year, when it bought 390,000 tonnes and received 66,000 tonnes in food aid.

There was a widespread lack of access to food in the North, the UN agency said. North Korea is one of 40 countries – 31in Africa – identified by FAO as in need of external assistance for food.

A report published last year by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that about 70 per cent of North Korea’s population was malnourished.

Experts are especially concerned about malnutrition among children and women of reproductive age. According to the latest national survey conducted in 2012, 27.9 per cent of North Korean children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting), while 4 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition (wasting).

Furthermore, 23.3 per cent of women of reproductive age are also malnourished. In 2014, a report by the Ministry of Public Health noted that 31.2 pe cent of pregnant women are anaemic and 5 per cent of children are born underweight.

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