North Korea On Brink Of Famine After Floods: Study
Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:32am EDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - Destitute North Korea will likely be pushed into famine due to devastating floods this year that wiped out crops and ruined farm land, a South Korean state-run think-tank said on Thursday.

"The North's food inventory has almost hit the bottom, so unless there's an extraordinary measure to stabilize supply, there may be a situation next year similar to the late 1990s," a study by the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI) said.

Famine in the late 1990s brought about by flooding, drought and years of mismanagement in the farm sector killed as many as 10 percent of the North's 22 million people, according to some estimates.

The KREI study said North Korea will run about 1.4 million tons short of the food needed to feed its people and estimated damage to its farming sector at more than $275 million.

North Korea has said flooding in August was some of the worst to hit the country. It killed at least 600 people, left more than 300,000 homeless, destroyed thousands of buildings and wiped out more than 11 percent of its farm land, its official media said.

But another South Korean specialist in North Korean agriculture has said it was unlikely that the isolated state would soon slip back into famine because of a large increase in grain production over the past decade.

North Korea, which suffers from chronic food shortages, usually relies on handouts from neighbors South Korea and China to make up its food deficit and it receives food aid from international agencies such as the U.N. World Food Program.

The environment for supplying food aid to North Korea has improved due to Pyongyang's progress in implementing an international agreement to end its nuclear weapons programs, aid workers have said.

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