FAO: N. Korea may achieve self-sufficiency in cereals in 2014
North Korea could, given the right conditions, become self-sufficient in cereals this year, after a sizable increase in harvests which has enabled it to reduce cereal imports by more than half from five years ago, a U.N. official said on Wednesday.
Hiroyuki Konuma, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, also said the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) needed to increase output of protein-rich crops to fight malnutrition, particularly in the impoverished north.
“I think it’s not a dream that DPRK can achieve self-sufficiency by the end of this year, if there are good weather conditions, timely provision of fertilizer, availability of quality seeds, availability of fuel for electricity, irrigation pumps, incentives to farmers,” Konuma told reporters in Bangkok after a 12-day visit to North Korea.
He said that DPRK rice output grew 11 percent in 2013, while overall 2013 production of cereals - including rice, maize, wheat, soybeans – and potatoes rose by 4 percent.
“It is quite encouraging. This is mainly, according to our analysis, due to availability of fertilizers, expanded utilization of improved variety of rice seeds,” Konuma said, adding that North Korea is using two new high-yield rice seeds, Pyongyang 49 and Pyongyang 52.
The increase has sharply reduced the country’s reliance on cereal imports to meet its needs.
“In 2009/2010, it was about 800,000 tonnes imported requirement to meet the deficit, but last year to this year (2013/2014), the deficit has become much smaller - it was 340,000 tonnes,” Konuma said.
A crop increase could be hindered by problems in the production and distribution of good quality seeds and fertilizer, he said. North Korea produces less than half the fertilizer it requires and imports most of the rest from China.
Despite improved cereal production, hunger and malnutrition remain widespread in the DPRK, particularly in the poor, mountainous north, though the situation is significantly better than five years ago.
North Korea has relied on food aid since the mid-1990s, when years of mismanagement of the farm sector and natural disasters resulted in famine that killed as many as a million people. Critics say Pyongyang spends most of its little hard currency on maintaining a million-strong army and developing nuclear weapons and missiles instead of feeding its millions of malnourished people.
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