FAO GIEWS Country Brief on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (08-July-2014)

Reference Date: 08-July-2014


  1. The 2014 early season crops affected by dry weather

  2. The 2013 cereal harvest was estimated good

  3. Larger harvest in 2013 reduces cereal import requirements in the 2013/14 marketing year (November/October)

  4. Despite the improved harvest, severe food insecurity persists

The 2014 early season crops affected by dry weather

Harvesting of the 2014 early season’s potatoes and minor cereal crops of wheat and barley, is currently underway and will continue until the end of June. Generally favourable weather conditions during October and mid-March over much of the country supported planting and early development of winter cereals and early season potato crops. However, a prolonged dry spell during mid-March and late April resulted in severe soil moisture deficits affecting crops at a critical growing stage in the main producing provinces, including South Hwanghae, South Pyongan, North Pyongan and farmed areas of Pyongyang City. These provinces collectively contribute to the largest share of total national output. As a result, FAO latest estimate puts the 2014 wheat production at 74 500 tonnes, marginally above last year’s low level and almost 30 percent below the five-year average. No precise information on the full extent of the damage on the early season crops is yet available, but water deficits are expected to have negatively affected yields of the potato crops the most.

Planting of the 2014 main season rice and maize crops normally starts in April and continues until mid-June. Rains resumed more normal patterns from the first dekad of May over the main crop-producing areas improving soil moisture and allowing maize and rice transplanting to take place. However, the delayed sowing and re-planting in parts, due to the insufficient rains in April, will likely negatively affect yields of the 2014 main season crops.

The 2013 cereal harvest was estimated good

The aggregate cereal harvest in 2013 was estimated around 5.3 million tonnes, 4 percent up on the previous year’s above-average output. This mainly reflected improved agricultural inputs availability, increased prices paid to farmers by the State Procurement Agency and generally favourable weather during the main cropping season. However, the 2013 production remained well below the levels achieved in the late 1980s.

Lower cereal import requirements forecast for the 2013/14 marketing year (November/October)

According to the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report published in November, cereal import requirements are forecast at 340 000 tonnes in the 2013/14 marketing year (November/October). This food gap is the narrowest in many years and is mainly due to successive years of increased cereal production, coupled with only a marginal increase in population. As of late March, total cereal imports (both through commercial channels and as food aid) were estimated at 25 200 tonnes.

Despite the improved harvest, chronic food insecurity persists

The Mission found that although acute malnutrition rates have improved in recent years, the chronic under-nutrition remains a public health problem. The Mission, therefore, recommends that international support be focused on improving diet diversity and feeding practices for young children and women through different strategies such as behavioral change, market reform, and encouraging livestock and fish production; strengthening treatment of severe and moderate acute malnutrition and improving hygiene and sanitation practices. Furthermore, additional cereal imports, commercial or food aid, would be required during the next three months of the lean period to help maintain the food rations through the public distribution system.

Relevant links:
 As of Jul 2014, included in the list of “Countries Requiring External Assistance for Food”
 Earth Observation Indicators
 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) Reports & Special Alerts: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2002, 2001, 2001, 2000, 2000, 2000, 1999, 1999, 1998, 1998, 1998, 1997, 1997, 1997, 1996, 1996, 1996, 1995
From FAO:
 FAO Country Profiles