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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
North Korea 'facing food crisis'
By Charles Scanlon
BBC News, Seoul

North Korean farmers preparing fields for rice - 20/4/05
North Korea cannot feed itself
The World Food Programme (WFP) has repeated its warning of a food crisis in North Korea and says the situation is getting worse by the day.

The WFP regional director, Anthony Banbury, said contributions from overseas had all but dried up.

He said the organisation was having to cut handouts to some of those most in need.

North Korea has depended on food aid from overseas for the last decade.

But major donors have made no new contributions this year and the WFP is warning of disaster if they do not resume shipments.

Mr Banbury said governments had expressed great frustration with North Korea's actions, and the hostile atmosphere was making them reluctant to send more aid.

North Korea declared itself a nuclear weapons state in February, and has refused to return to international talks on its nuclear programme.

The government food ration has already been cut to 250g (9oz), just half the recommended daily amount.

The WFP says it has also cut supplies to two and a half million of the most needy recipients, including children, the elderly and pregnant women.

It has warned of a possible return to famine conditions.

South Korea is sending fertiliser, which will help the next harvest in five months' time.

It has held out the prospect of food aid but is reluctant to give it while the North refuses to discuss its nuclear programme.

The United States says it is also considering food aid but has yet to make a decision.

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