SEOUL, Jul 2 – North Korea is expected to run short of up to 840,000 tons of food this year, a South Korean government report said Thursday.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the state-run Korea Development Institute said total grain resources may be around 4.29 million tons compared with the minimum 5.13 million needed to feed the 24 million people.
The report, based on estimates released by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), said the North may be able to produce 3.34 million tons of grain on its own, import 500,000 tons from abroad and receive aid amounting to 450,000 tons.
"The calculation is based on an average North Korean consuming 1,600 calories per day, which is 75 percent of the 2,130 calories recommended for a healthy person by the World Health Organization," the assessment said.
It said that if Pyongyang continues to refuse to accept 330,000 tons of grain from the United States, foreign aid would only amount to 120,000 tons and the shortfall may grow to 1.17 million tons.
Other think tanks such as the Korea Rural Economic Institute put the shortfall lower, at 560,000 tons.
The WFP said Wednesday that North Koreans, especially children, are facing a "critical" food situation as donations have dried up amid Pyongyang\’s nuclear standoff with the world.
Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test in May followed by further missile launches, which resulted in new UN sanctions.
Torben Due, the WFP\’s representative in Pyongyang, said in Beijing that the North had told the agency to scale back its operations without giving clear reasons.
He said a UN study estimated nearly nine million North Koreans — more than a third of the population — need food aid.
The North suffered famine in the 1990s which killed hundreds of thousands. Poor weather was blamed but analysts said the inefficient communist command economy also played a large part.
Since then it has relied on overseas aid to feed millions of its people.
South Korea last year did not make its customary shipment of hundreds of thousands of tons of rice and fertiliser because the North failed to request the deliveries.
Cross-border ties have worsened since a conservative government took office in Seoul in February 2008.