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UN FAO reports drop in North Korea food production

North Korea's food production has fallen, the UN reports. The Food and Agriculture Organization warns that it expects worsening hunger as the country continues to receive below-average rainfall.

In 2015,

North Korea

produced about 5.4 million tons of food, including cereals, soybeans and potatoes, down from the 5.9 million tons it produced in 2014, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. That is the first drop since 2010, the FAO announced in a report released late Wednesday, and the trend shows no sign of reversing.

"Given the tight food supplies in 2015-16, the country's food security situation is expected to deteriorate from the previous year, when most households were already estimated to have poor or borderline food-consumption levels," the FAO announced.

Last May the United Nations had warned of a looming food crisis as North Korea faced what state media call the country's

"worst drought in a century."

Researchers believed that

the lack of rain

compounded chronic food shortages in North Korea, which has seen external aid decline in recent years.

Not all grains

According to FAO estimates, the country faces a shortage of 394,000 tons of cereal, the biggest gap since 2011-12.

Poor rainfall

and low availability of water for irrigation caused the production of paddy rice, North Korea's main staple, to drop by 25 percent to 1.9 million ton, the FAO reported. The agency also estimated that production of maize, the country's second most important crop, decreased by 3 percent, to 2.29 million tons, despite an expansion in plantings.

Compared to 2014, however, the output of other cereals - such as sorghum, millet and buckwheat - almost tripled, the FAO reported. And the production of drought-resistant soybeans, the main source of protein in North Korea, increased by 37 percent, to 220,000 tons, according to the FAO.

A limited supply of fertilizer and fuel last year also contributed to the decreased crop production in 2015, the FAO reported.

mkg/kms (Reuters, dpa, AP)