Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   21 May

Serious drought in North Korea could worsen already critical food shortages

YEREVAN, JUNE 20, ARMENPRESS. North Korea is suffering from its worst spring drought in more than three decades, threatening thousands of acres of staple crops, reports “Armenpress”, referring to Korean state media.

Average rainfall between mid-February and late April - a crucial growing period - was 23.5mm, barely 35 per cent of the normal seasonal precipitation and the lowest recorded since 1982.Thousands of acres of spring crops such as barley, wheat and potatoes have been damaged. The grain harvest is expected to be very low as it is being hit by drought at a time when water is required the most,

The protracted drought is heightening worries about North Korea's ability to feed its people. Two-thirds of North Korea's 24 million people faced chronic food shortages, the United Nations said earlier this month while asking donors for $198 million in humanitarian aid for the country.

Even in South Phyongan and North and South Hwanghae provinces, which are traditionally North Korea's "breadbasket," thousands of hectares (acres) of crops are withering away despite good irrigation systems, local officials said. Reservoirs are drying up, creating irrigation problems for farmers

Mountainous North Korea, where less than 20 percent of the land is arable, has relied on outside food aid to help make up for a chronic shortage since natural disasters and outmoded agricultural practices led to a famine in the 1990s. North Korean farmers still face shortages of fuel, tractors, quality seeds and fertilizer

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