N Korean farmers cite grave drought; aid unlikely

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 11:13

Nampho: North Korea is reporting a serious drought that could worsen already critical food shortages, but help is unlikely to come from the United States and South Korea following Pyongyang`s widely criticised rocket launch.

North Korea has had little rain since April 27, with the country`s western coastal areas particularly hard hit, according to a government weather agency in Pyongyang. The dry spell threatened to damage crops, officials said, as the country enters a critical planting season and as food supplies from the last harvest dwindle.

In at least one area of South Phyongan Province where journalists from a news agency were allowed to visit, the sun-baked fields appeared parched and cracked, and farmers complained of extreme drought conditions. Deeply tanned men, and women in sun bonnets, worked over cabbages and corn seedlings.

Farmers cupped individual seedlings as they poured water from blue buckets onto the parched red soil. "I`ve been working at the farm for more than 30 years, but I have never experienced this kind of severe drought," An Song Min, a farmer at the Tokhae Cooperative Farm in the Nampho area, told the news agency.

It was not clear whether the conditions around Nampho were representative of a wider region. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said it had not yet visited the affected regions to confirm the extent and severity of the reported drought.

North Korea has suffered chronic food shortages for the past two decades because of economic and agricultural mismanagement as well as natural disasters. A famine in the 1990s killed an estimated hundreds of thousands of people. North Korea state media has publicised the drought but hasn`t asked for international handouts.

The country`s past appeals for food aid have been met with some scepticism, however, amid worries that aid would be diverted to the military and Pyongyang elite without reaching the hungry.

The US government suspended food handouts to North Korea in 2009 after Pyongyang expelled foreign food distribution monitors.


First Published: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 11:13

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