The BBC reports that officials from five aid agencies who have just returned from a trip to North Korea say they saw evidence of looming food shortages and alarming malnutrition, including people picking wild grasses to eat. The charity workers - from World Vision, Mercy Corps, Samaritan's Purse, Christian Friends of Korea and Global Resource Services - spent a week in North Korea earlier this month, invited by the government.
It is well documented that during food shortages in the North, people will forage for weeds, herbs and wild grasses to supplement their meager diet. What is harder to know is the extent to which this is normal or something out of the ordinary.
The agencies report the Pyongyang government saying between 50% and 80% of the wheat and barley planted for harvesting in the spring has been killed by the extreme cold of the past two months, as well as potato seedlings.
The team also says hospitals reported an increase in malnutrition over the past six months - the aid workers themselves saw acute cases too.
The United Nations currently has a team of food experts in North Korea. A spokesman said as well as there being a known shortfall of nearly a million tons in cereals, the last vegetable harvest was much poorer than expected.