FAO/GIEWS Global Watch: Food supply situation to deteriorate in DPR Korea following severe floods and crop losses

from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Published on 17 Aug 2007
Unprecedented torrential rains from 5 to 12 August along the River Taedong displaced hundreds of thousands of people and resulted in severe damage to housing, infrastructure and the agriculture sector. The exceptional heavy rains, reported to be the highest in several decades in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, arrived when the 2007 main (summer) season cereal crops, mostly rice and maize, were at the critical development stage. The summer season, normally harvested from October to November, accounts for some 87 percent of the country's annual production of cereals, the main staple in DPR Korea.

A detailed assessment of the flood damage to crops is not yet available as waters have not yet receded and rains continue to fall. However, according to preliminary official estimates as of 14 August, more than 11 percent of the area planted with rice and maize has been submerged or washed away by floods. In the past five years, an average of 584 000 hectares of paddy and 495 000 hectares of maize have been planted in the country with productions of some 2.4 million tonnes of paddy and 1.83 million tonnes of maize, respectively. Government reports indicate that the worst affected areas are the provinces of South Pyongan, North Hwanghae and South Hwanghae, which are the bread basket of the country, accounting for about half of the total rice and maize production in recent years. The cereal area lost or damaged by the floods is estimated at 26 700 hectares in South Phyongan (20 000 of paddy and 6 700 of maize), at some 20 000 hectares in South Hwanghae (14 000 hectares of paddy and 6 000 hectares of maize) and at 37 000 hectares, or about one-third of the cereal plantings of the province, in North Hwanghae. The floods are likely to have a significant negative impact on the 2007 cereal production. Although it is too early to have a comprehensive assessment of production losses, rough estimates indicate that up to 200 000-300 000 tonnes of cereals could have been lost to floods; the final outcome of the cropping season, however, will depend on weather conditions in the next few months.

The country's already tight food supply situation will deteriorate with the anticipated reduction in the 2007 cereal output. Even if DPR Korea has benefited from a steady recovery in agricultural production in the last few years, the cereal deficit in the 2006/07 marketing year (November/October) was still estimated at 1 million tonnes before the floods. Most of the deficit is expected to be covered by food aid. However, in the period from November 2006 to July 2007, total cereal imports received in the country amounted at only 500 000 tonnes (mainly food aid from the Republic of Korea). The remaining cereal deficit of 500 000 tonnes needs to be covered by additional food aid and/or commercial imports if food consumption levels in the country are to be maintained. At household level, losses of standing crops and of food stocks will adversely affect food security of the communities hardest hit by the floods well into the year 2008.