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Grain shortage halts UN food processing factories in N. Korea: report

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- Grain shortages caused some United Nations (UN) food processing factories in North Korea to shut down temporarily, hurting ongoing support to nourish people in the communist country, a report said Tuesday.

World Food Programme spokeswoman Nanna Skau told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that operations at five of the international organization's 14 food factories in the North have been halted because of grain shortages. The production facilities make fortified biscuits mainly for children.

Grain provided to the North has dropped sharply in recent months after Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket and detonated its third nuclear device, in defiance of strong warnings from the international community. The country has been slapped with fresh sanctions for its latest provocations in early March.

The RFA said that the disruption in production, forced the UN organization to withhold supplying biscuits to 500,000 kids in the western and southern parts of the country. It also said that the total amount of food provided by the food agency to North Koreans as a whole in May, stood at just 3,000 tons, or 15 percent of the 19,000 tons that was originally set to be delivered.

The media outlet said Skau expressed concern that food supply conditions may not improve until August and called for more international assistance to alleviate the plight of ordinary people living in the impoverished country.

Related to the food shortage situation that has plagued Pyongyang, Tom Morrison, an agronomist who visited the North on numerous occasions on behalf of the UN food program, claimed that North Korea has a high percentage of land that is arable.

He said in a an article on Sino-NK.com., that the country's problem rests with low productivity brought on by poor farming practices, insufficient flood damage control and a lack of farming equipment and fertilizers.

The expert said roughly 15 percent of the North's land is being used for agriculture which is about 4 percentage points higher than the world average that stands at 10.6 percent. This, he said, is on par with China and Myanmar that have attained self-sufficiency in food, and higher than the 6 percent reported by Australia, a major grain exporter.

Morrison said that while one hectare of land in the North produced 8 tons of food in 1980, the number stood at just 3.9 tons in 2011.

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