SEOUL - North Korea’s crop harvest last year was the highest since the mid-1990s, when famine and general economic crisis hit the communist country, a private South Korea-based agricultural think tank said Friday.
The GS&J Institute released a report based on statistics from the U.N.'s World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization. Dr. Gwon Tae-jin, who spearheaded the research, wrote that the North harvested 4.98 million tons of crops in 2014.
The FAO recently announced that the North harvested about 5.94 million tons of raw crops last year. The figure from the GS&J Institute is based on how much would be left after processing the raw crops for consumption.
Gwon explained that while the figure is lower than the previous estimate because of the drought in spring, the autumn harvest made up for the lackluster yield earlier in the year.
The report indicated North Korea’s crop harvest plunged from 4.05 million tons in 1995 to 2.57 million tons in 2001. However, the food security situation has improved since 2004, staying around 4 million tons in most years.
In 2011, the figure rose to 4.22 million tons, and when Kim Jong Un became the country’s leader in 2012, it rose to 4.45 million tons. The next year, it was 4.84 million tons.
Gwon said Pyongyang’s efforts to draw manpower to farming and prioritize the distribution of fertilizer and other materials for agriculture is the main reason behind the hike in crop harvest. He added that the new policy of letting farmers freely use a certain percentage of the harvest had also helped the productivity.
In a telephone interview with VOA, Gwon said, “North Korea, which overcame difficulty with international aid in the early 2000s, is now in the process of overcoming another difficulty through its own efforts, rather than aid.”
Despite the slight improvement, however, the North Korean government is not able to meet the minimum needed for food security.
In 2007, when the crop yield was low, Pyongyang was able to feed its people through imports and international aid. From 2008 on, the country has experienced food shortages because of a decline in international aid.
The latest report forecast crop distribution in the North to be lacking by some 80,000 tons, when totaling its crop harvest, imports and international aid.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.