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2010/02/10 09:32 KST
Food shortage worsens in N. Korea: official

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's food shortage is expected to further worsen this year, as the communist state's grain output in 2009 is believed to have fallen from the previous year, a government official in Seoul said Wednesday.

   The North is estimated to have produced 4.1 million tons of grain last year, a drop of about 200,000 tons compared to 2008, the Unification Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

   The amount falls about 1.3 million tons short of what the impoverished country needs this year to feed its 24 million people, the official said. The North produced 4.3 million tons in 2008.

   The estimate is based on a simulation led by the Rural Development Administration, which analyzed initial production figures released by the North and data obtained from other sources on the climate and soil conditions last year, the official said.

   Experts say the suspension of fertilizer aid from the South amid deteriorating inter-Korean ties may have aggravated the production and that weather conditions have proved unfavorable for the North.

   North Korea, one of the world's poorest countries, has relied on international handouts to feed its population since a massive famine killed an estimated 2 million people in the mid-1990s.

   The country produced 1.9 million tons of rice in 2008, compared to 4.8 million tons in the South.