North Korea, one of the world's poorest countries, is facing a worsening food crisis after crop production fell for the first time since 2010, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Wednesday.
"Last year, total food production in North Korea [...] is estimated to have been about 5.4 million tonnes compared to 5.9 million tonnes in 2014, marking a 9-per-cent decrease," the Rome-based agency said in a statement.
North Korea is ruled by a secretive communist regime presiding over a struggling economy. In February, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 70 per cent of the country's population, or 18 million, did not have enough to eat.
"Given the tight food supplies in 2015/16, the country's food security situation is expected to deteriorate from the previous year when most households were already estimated to have poor or borderline food consumption levels," the FAO said.
The UN agency said production of the country's main staple food, paddy rice, fell by 26 per cent in 2015, due to poor rains and insufficient irrigation, widening the national shortfall in cereal availability.
The country needs to import 694,000 tonnes of cereals, but the government is planning to buy just 300,000 tonnes, the FAO said. The resulting deficit of 394,000 tonnes "represents the highest gap since 2011/12," it noted.