The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation predicted that North Korea will face a shortage of food in the year ahead. It warned that the country could be facing a “harsh period” starting next month.

This impoverished country is currently under multiple international sanctions for its ballistic missile programs and nuclear weapons. It has struggled for years to feed itself, with chronic food shortages.

The coronavirus pandemic, a series of floods and summer storms that hit the country last year added further pressure to the economy. Pyongyang acknowledged last month that it is addressing a “current food shortage”.

According to the FAO report (reference date Monday), North Korea is expected to produce an “near average level” of 5.6 millions tonnes of grain in this year’s production.

This is about 1.1 million tonnes less than the amount required to feed the entire population. With “commercial imports officially scheduled at 205,000 tonnes”, North Korea may face a food shortage of approximately 860,000 tonnes.

It stated that if the gap isn’t adequately filled by commercial imports or food aid, households may experience severe lean periods from August to October.”

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To protect itself from the pandemic, Pyongyang closed its borders to Beijing in January 2013. As a result, trade with Beijing has slowed to an absolute halt and all international aid workers have fled the country.

Last summer, a series of typhoons caused floods that decimated thousands of homes and swamped farmland.

Kim Jong Un, North Korean leader, has rarely made reference to hardship in recent months. He said that the food situation was becoming “tense” and warned people to be prepared for the worst.