Malnutrition still threatens North Korea

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Food production in North Korea has risen for a second year but the impoverished country still faces shortages and widespread malnutrition, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has said.

The UN body forecast a 10 per cent increase in the main 2012 harvests and 2013 early season crops compared with a year earlier, and said production was expected to hit 5.8 million tonnes. The country faced a staple food deficit of 207,000 tonnes, the lowest in many years, but 2.8 million people remain vulnerable to undernutrition, the FAO said in a report out yesterday, based on a fact-finding mission to the country.

Kisan Gunjal, FAO economist and the mission’s co-leader, said: “The new harvest figures are good news, but the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming.”

With little arable land, harsh weather and chronic shortages of fuel and equipment, North Korea has struggled for decades to feed its 24 million people.

Its new leader, Kim Jong-Un, has pledged to improve North Koreans’ standards of living.