The UN World Food Program (WFP) estimates that North Korea will see a shortfall of 83,000 tons of rice following the November harvest.
Analysts believe North Korea could feed itself under normal circumstances, particularly since, according to the World Bank, North Korea has just under 125 hectares of arable land per 1,000 people, compared with 95 hectares in the U.K. and 80 in Belgium and China.
A fertilizer shortage has also taken a toll on crop yields, and has become even more acute since South Korea stopped sending annual aid of 300,000 tons a year, citing concerns that the chemicals were being redirected for military purposes. North Korea's own fertilizer output is estimated at less than 500,000 tons a year, about a third of the 1.5 million tons the country needs for use on its grain farms, according to the Unification Ministry in Seoul.
North Korea's farmers are crippled by the country's isolation and the government's top-down management of agriculture. "There are no farm animals, virtually no machinery. They're not practising anything like crop rotation," said Paul French, author of North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula. "You know there's a problem when people have eaten all the livestock."
Observers say the root of the problem is Pyongyang's stubborn insistence on the same collective-farm model that proved a catastrophic failure in China, the Soviet Union and other socialist states.
[Source: Toronto Globe and Mail]