North Korea convenes meeting on agricultural stability amid food shortage woes

North Korean food shortage seems to be worsening, South Korea says
A North Korean boy holds a spade in a corn field in area damaged by floods and typhoons in the Soksa-Ri collective farm in the South Hwanghae province September 29, 2011. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

SEOUL, March 16 (Reuters) - North Korea held a cabinet-level meeting to discuss the issue of agricultural stability on Wednesday amid fears of food shortages, state media KCNA reported on Thursday.

The meeting led by Kim Tok Hun, premier of the cabinet, saw senior officials come up with "various detailed action plans" to ensure stable agricultural production, the report said.

This comes after leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to engineer a "fundamental transformation" in agricultural production during the seventh enlarged plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea last month.

South Korean lawmakers, citing intelligence officials, said earlier this month that the North was facing an annual rice shortage of 800,000 tonnes and that the current food shortage situation was caused by the country's grain policy, distribution problems and the COVID-19 situation.

A recent United Nations report estimates that 60% of the population in North Korea suffered from food insecurity by the end of 2021 versus 40% prior to the pandemic.

From 2019 to 2021, 41.6 % of the population suffered from malnourishment, the report said.

The isolated country is under strict international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes and in recent years its limited border trade was virtually choked off by self-imposed lockdowns aimed at preventing COVID.

Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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