North Korea’s grain production not enough to feed population, think tank says

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June 3 (UPI) — North Korea‘s grain output totaled 4.4 million tons last year amid the coronavirus pandemic and seasonal flooding, and the production may not be sufficient for the country, according to a South Korean think tank.

The Korea Development Institute said Thursday in its North Korean economic review that the country is short 1.35 million tons of food this year due to last year’s deficit, Yonhap reported.

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Grain output in 2020 was 240,000 tons less than 2019, the Institute said in its analysis.

Production of rice, a key staple in the country, was down 220,000 tons in 2020, compared to 2019. Production of other staples, including potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn, also decreased, the report said.

North Korea’s annual grain demand is 5.75 million tons. The country could import food from trading partners, including China, or bring in food aid from international agencies.

According to the development institute, even if North Korea imports 200,000 to 300,000 tons of grain and requests anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 tons of food from U.N. agencies, the country still will be short 700,000 tons to 1 million tons of food this year.

North Korea admits goods across its 880-mile border with China, but in the wake of COVID-19, the regime shut its borders. Trade dropped significantly with China in 2020, or by about 80%, according to Seoul’s Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year said the country’s previous Five-Year Plan for the economy was a failure. Kim also ordered his people mobilize for national construction.

KCNA reported Thursday that the Socialist Patriotic Youth League, under the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, called on North Koreans between the ages of 15 and 30 to contribute to “socialist building.”

Mun Chol, chairman of the Central Commmittee, was quoted as saying the Youth League faces an “honorable task” as “builders of socialism.” The KCNA report did not mention specific projects for the group.

Kim previously called on North Korean youth to build to “implement the decisions of the Eighth Party Congress” in January.