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Tuesday, 20 January, 1998, 18:44 GMT
North Korean official puts grain shortfall at 60 percent

Last year's harvest in North Korea fell 60 percent short of minimum requirements, a Pyongyang official has said.

As a result, the amount of food per head from October last year until next September is a mere 180 grams a day.

Speaking in an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Cha Limsok, deputy director of the Farm Produce Bureau of the Agricultural Commission under the Administration Council, said the shortages were caused by last summer's drought in the country: in late August, North Korea's western coastal grain-producing region was struck by typhoons and tidal waves.

The agency said it was the first time the statistics had been made public outside North Korea.

Cha said the country's gross grain output in 1997 amounted to 2.685 million tons, which was processed into 2.148 million tons of cereals.

The minimum requirement for grain between October 1997 and September 1998 was estimated at 4.022 million tons, a shortfall of 60 per cent, he said.

After deducting seeds and feed grains, the country only had 1.422 million tons of grain in storage by the end of September last year.

In a bid to make good the food deficit, the government plans to import 500,000 tons of grain and will appeal to the international community for another 700,000 tons of aid in grain, he said.

Cha said North Korea would do its best to achieve a good harvest in 1998, but was still short of more than 7,000 tons of barley seeds, 1000 tons of corn seeds and considerable amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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