‘Harsh lean period’: North Korea to face food shortage of 860,000 tonnes in 2021

North Korea could experience a “harsh lean period” as early as next month, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation has said.

The acute food shortage in North Korea where the price of a packet of coffee has gone up to $100 is just the beginning of a harsh, lean period in the country, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation has forwarned, estimating North Korea’s food shortage of this year at around 860,000 tonnes this year. The country could experience a “harsh lean period” as early as next month, the UN body has said.

“If this gap is not adequately covered through commercial imports and/or food aid, households could experience a harsh lean period from August to October,” it said.

What is the present food crisis situation in North Korea?

In June, North Korean leader Kim Jon Un formally addressed the food shortage issue of the country and said the situation is now getting tense. Reports said the price of rice skyrocketed in June and corn has been on the rising path since the beginning of 2021. South Korea’s Korea Institute of National Unification has said rice price has soared owing to a lack of supply. In 2020, North Korean grain production also fell by an estimate of 5.2 per cent.

Several key government officials have been replaced apparently for the mismanagement of the crisis.

What led to the food crisis

North Korea shut its borders since 2020 amid the pandemic, while its own agriculture sector failed because of flood damage. All these, compounded with the ongoing international sanctions on the country, have led to this situation. But the food crisis was not unforeseen as the crunch began from last year itself. According to a report from the US department of agriculture, North Koreans were eating 445 calories less a day than the 2,100-calorie diet recommended by the United Nations.

How will North Korea overcome the food crisis?

In an article, South China Morning Post has said “emaciated” Kim Jong Un will ride out the famine in North Korea with China’s help. Kim’s greetings to Xi Jinping on the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party are being interpreted by experts as a message from Kim that North Korea’s strong ties with Beijing will help Pyongyang navigate the crisis.

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