N. Korea in need of food assistance for 2.8 mln vulnerable citizens: U.N.

SEOUL, July 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea needs food assistance from the outside world to feed 2.8 million vulnerable citizens until the next harvest in October, a United Nations food organization said Friday.

"An estimated 2.8 million vulnerable people require food assistance until the next harvest in October," the quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. said.

The report said chronic food insecurity exists in the North although the country's cereal harvest improved last year and remains normal as of early 2013.

Through imports and food assistance, the communist country secured 725,500 tons of grains from the outside world during the January-early June period, the report said. A total of 459,100 tons were purchased from other countries while the rest represents food aid, according to the report.

The external food supplies slightly exceed the 657,000 tons of food assistance requirement the U.N. organization estimated for the North, the report showed.

Despite annual food aid and grain purchase from the outside world, part of the North Korean population is believed to be suffering from chronic food shortages due to distribution issues.

"The collapse of North Korea's rationing system deprived vulnerable people like children, pregnant women and aged people of access to foods ... the country is always in need of food assistance for the vulnerable class regardless of the amount of grains secured by the regime," said Kwon Tae-jin, an analyst at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

The world food report also said the global grain production may grow 6.8 percent on-year to reach a record high of 2.48 billion tons this year.

The robust outcome expected for this year may help maintain the on-going stability in the global crop market as well as in the global rice price, the report noted.

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