Photo credit: James Belgrave/WFP

The FAO/WFP Joint Rapid Food Security Assessment was recently released, drawing attention to the increasingly alarming food security situation in North Korea. The country faces food shortages after the worst harvest in 10 years. There is a food deficit of 1.36 million metric tons, and 10.1 million people are experiencing food insecurity.

This report provides an overview of the causes of the crisis, mainly the 2018 production shortfall. Poor 2018 yields were influenced by prolonged dry spells and high temperatures, as well as the lack of adequate supplies of agricultural inputs. The country faces a similarly unfavorable outlook for 2019 early season crops, due to low rainfall and less snow cover in the interim. The food security situation is exacerbated by shortages of fuel, which translate to higher post-harvest losses as a result of transport, processing, and ventilation of stocks becoming more difficult.

With such low levels of domestic production, the assessment makes the case that planned imports and already pledged food assistance will fall considerably short of the domestic food requirements for the 2018/19 marketing year. The population is coping with these food shortages by reducing consumption, and dietary diversity continues to be low. The country’s Public Distribution System (PDS) is also responding with reductions to daily food rations.

The report highlights that four out of every ten North Koreans face food insecurity and are in urgent need of food assistance. It warns that this situation could worsen without a timely humanitarian response. Recommendations include the immediate distribution of cereals and pulses, expanding nutrition programs, and establishing a robust food security and nutrition monitoring system for the early detection of potential food crises. Production and value-chain-related recommendations include the provision of high-quality agricultural inputs, upgrading food processing equipment, and improving storage facilities to reduce post-harvest losses.

This assessment contributes to the broader work of providing timely evidence important for equipping governments and the international community with the information needed to address and prevent food crises.

Learn more about the Food Security Portal’s work related to early detection of food crises on our Early Warning Systems page.

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