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North Korea

Production and Distribution of Crops and Livestock

The total cropland of about 2.2 million hectares is overwhelmingly planted with grains, of which rice accounted for 30.1 percent in 1989-90. Official data on cropland distribution and agricultural production are scanty, and there are discrepancies in the methods of calculating the weight of rice (husked or unhusked). North Korea claims to have produced 10 million tons of grains in 1984. The grain output in 1989 was estimated at 12.04 million tons by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In 1989 the output of the two most important crops, rice and corn, was estimated at 6.4 million tons and 3 million tons, respectively. The output of potatoes was 2.05 million tons in 1989. Other important crops are wheat, barley, millet, sorghum, oats, and rye. Corn grows in most areas, except for parts of Yanggang and North Hamgyng provinces. Barley and wheat are cultivated mostly in both Hwanghae provinces and in South P'yngan Province. Rice is exported, but other grains, such as wheat, are imported. P'yongyang's goal is to increase the grain output to 15 million tons by 1993.

Major rice production centers are located in the provinces of North and South Hwanghae and in the provinces of North and South P'yngan. North Korea's climate precludes double-cropping of rice in most areas, and different methods had to be devised to increase productivity. One method is to use cold-bed seeding, a process that enables farmers to begin rice growing before the regular season by planting seedlings in protected, dry beds.

Fruits, vegetables, and livestock also are important, particularly around cities and in upland areas unsuited to grain cultivation. Fruit orchards are concentrated in both Hamgyng provinces, South P'yngan Province, and South Hwanghae Province. Soybeans, whose output was around 450,000 tons toward the end of the 1980s, are raised in many parts of the country, but primarily in South P'yngan Province.

The post-Korean War trend of increasing the share of livestock in the total value of agricultural output continued during the 1980s, judging from the steady growth, which outpaced grain production. Cattle are raised in the mountainous parts of the two P'yngan provinces, and sheep and goats are kept in the rugged areas of the two Hamgyng provinces and in Yanggang and Kangwn provinces. Pigs and poultry, probably the most important types of livestock, are raised near P'yongyang and in North P'yngan and South Hwanghae provinces. The government is particularly proud of its large chicken farms.

According to a 1988 agreement with the UNDP, North Korea was to receive livestock aid from the UNDP, along with assistance in modernizing vegetable farms, fruit production and storage, rice cultivation, and construction of a fish farm and soil and plant experimental stations. A rice nursery and a vegetable research institute began operation in March 1991. The Third Seven-Year Plan called for attaining an annual output of 1.7 million tons of meat, 7 billion eggs, and 2 million tons of fruit by 1993.

In the early 1990s, there were persistent reports of severe food shortages as a result of several years of consecutive crop failures, coupled with distribution problems that had serious consequences for food rationing. An indirect admission of food shortages came in Kim Il Sung's 1992 New Year's address, in which he defined 1992 as the "year of put-greater-efforts-into- agriculture" in order to provide the population with sufficient food.

Data as of June 1993