Nearly 40 percent of the population in North Korea will need food aid next year because of the severe shortages of fertilizer and fuel, U.N. food agencies said Monday.
The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization alerted in a joint report that food production was down again for the third straight year, according to The Associated Press.
North Korea faces a shortfall of more than 800,000 tons of grain for this year through October 2009 - the next harvest, Bloomberg news reported.
As a result, about 8.7 million of the country's 23 million, or 38 percent, will need food assistance next year.
"The findings of the mission confirm WFP's fears that millions of DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) households will suffer through yet another year of food shortages," WFP country Representative Torben Due said in a statement from Pyongyang.
"Accessing enough food and a balanced diet will be almost impossible, particularly for families living in urban areas or in the remote food-deficit provinces in the Northeast," Due said. "This could have grave consequences for the health of the most vulnerable groups."
FAO's chief of global information and early warning system, Henri Josserand, noted that in spite of good weather and hard work by farmers and some city-dwellers, they "could not overcome critical shortages of fertilizer and fuel."
"The prospects for next year are bleak," he added.
WFP and FAO inspected North Korea from October 9-24, the first such comprehensive field assessment mission since 2004, the agencies said in its report.
The impoverished country of North Korea has depended on foreign food aid since droughts, floods, and mismanagement devastated its food production and economy in the mid-1990s.
It's estimated that up to two million people died during the devastating famine in the 1990s.
This year's food shortage is largely due to the 2007 flood – the worst in 40 years – that left more than 600 people dead or missing and some 100,000 people homeless. After the 2007 flood, more than 11 percent of the nation's crops were destroyed as well as many of the country's infrastructure and industrial facilities.
Its neighbor South Korea, which is technically still at war with its northern counterpart since their 1950-53 civil war, is considering a U.N. request to help raise $60 million to purchase food and other essential needs for the country.