North Korea facing ‘worst food shortage in a decade’

·2-min read
File image: In June, Kim Jong-un issued a warning about the country’s food crisis worsening (via REUTERS)
File image: In June, Kim Jong-un issued a warning about the country’s food crisis worsening (via REUTERS)

North Korea is facing its worst food shortage in more than a decade, the country said in a report to the United Nations, in what is seen as the most challenging phase for the East Asian nation under the leadership of Kim Jong-un.

In a voluntary national review for a UN examination of the country’s sustainable development goals, North Korea admitted for the first time that food production dropped to its lowest level in 2018, Bloomberg news agency reported.

It said the situation has arisen due to “natural disasters and weak resilience, insufficient farming materials and low level of mechanisation.”

The government, however, also put partial blame on the United Nations and the sanctions it has imposed on the country for carrying out tests of nuclear weapons and missiles.

The “main obstacles to the government’s efforts to achieve the sustainable development of the country” include the “continued sanctions and blockade on the DPRK [North Korea]”, it said in the report submitted to the UN.

The admission came after Mr Kim issued a warning in June stating that the food situation is “getting tense” in the country. Reports from North Korea said the prices of food items have been skyrocketing since the beginning of 2021.

“The agricultural sector failed to fulfil its grain production plan,” Mr Kim was quoted as saying.

South Korea’s Korea Institute of National Unification has said rice price has soared due to lack of supply. In 2020, North Korean grain production also fell by an estimate of 5.2 per cent.

The problem has been intensifying partly due to the closure of North Korea’s borders since the beginning of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and the domestic issue of flood related damages.

However, the food crisis was not unforeseen as the country began experiencing a crunch from the last year itself. The impoverished nation last year had an estimated food deficit of about 1 million metric tons, according to a report from the US department of agriculture in January. It also said North Koreans were eating 445 calories less a day than the 2,100-calorie diet recommended by the United Nations.

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