Sunday, August 19, 2007

UN projects North Korea food shortage to increase

The U.N. warned that North Korea's food situation will worsen after record rains wracked the country's agricultural heartland, and an aid group said the numbers of dead and missing from floods has risen to more than 300.

South Korea, the U.S. and Germany offered aid to help Pyongyang cope with the storms, which have prompted an unusual amount of candor from the usually secretive regime over the scale of the damage.

The North has said a week of storms has destroyed 11 percent of its rice and corn fields. The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that would mean 200,000-300,000 tons of cereals may have been lost to floods. It said the situation could change, depending on the weather over the next few months.

Some 87 percent of the country's annual production of cereals is harvested from October to November and the rains arrived at a critical development stage, the agency said. Cereals are the main staple in North Korea.

"The country's already tight food supply situation will deteriorate" with this year's anticipated shortage, the agency said in a statement.

Some of the hardest-hit regions were along the border with South Korea. "We have difficulties accessing these areas because the roads are gone."


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