Issued weekly by the United Nations World Food Programme


   1.  UPDATE

   1.1  Drought situation - report of the FAO/WFP crop and food supply

   a)  FAO and WFP on 11 September issued a Special Alert (No. 277)
   following a joint crop and food supply assessment mission to DPR Korea.
   The mission was fielded to assess the effects of this summer's prolonged
   drought. However, as the mission was in the country, Typhoon Winnie
   struck. The mission was requested to make a preliminary assessment of
   this damage as well.

   b)  The agricultural season started favourably with well above normal
   rainfall in May. However, a serious drought followed, extending from
   June to mid-August. During this period, precipitation was reduced to
   between 14 and 40 percent of normal levels. Moreover, it appeared that
   after the heavy rainfall in May, the water level in some rain-fed
   reservoirs was deliberately reduced for fear that continued rain in June
   and July would cause overflowing and thus flooding, as in the previous
   two years.

   c)  In all reservoirs seen by the mission, the water supplies had been
   either totally exhausted or were well below capacity. Adequate and
   sustained rainfall in September would come too late to have but a
   limited effect on the maize production although it would still save a
   major part of the paddy crop. If the reservoirs are not replenished,
   land preparation and planting of the 1998 crops in April/May will be
   compromised by water shortage.

   d)  The negative effects of the lack of water were quite obvious, the
   mission reported. While maize with adequate irrigation, generally from
   major rivers, was in good shape, crops under rainfed, non-irrigated
   conditions were highly stunted and had developed poor grains or none at

   e)  By the time of the mission the rice crop needed a further five to
   six weeks to reach maturity. Should the crop receive assured irrigation
   for at least another three weeks, production could still be adequate,
   but absence of water at this critical stage would result in a serious
   reduction in yields.

   f)  Reports received since the end of the mission indicate that rainfall
   in the first half of September has been limited, and irregular. Domestic
   production this year will, therefore, depend heavily on areas which are
   irrigated from main rivers rather than from rainfed reservoirs.

   1.2  Typhoon Winnie

   a)  To aggravate an already serious situation, Typhoon Winnie,
   originating in the East China Sea, hit DPR Korea between 18 and 22
   August. Although the typhoon in the initial stage brought much needed
   rainfall, high winds and tides destroyed protective sea dikes along the
   western coast.

   b)  The most serious effect on agriculture was the infiltration of sea
   water into paddy areas. In the most serious cases observed by the
   mission, sea water had penetrated as far as six kilometres inland. A
   large number of houses were destroyed with some loss of lives reported.

   c)  As an immediate response, WFP and a consortium of American
   non-governmental organizations have agreed to use a US special
   contribution to support a food-for-work project for the repair of 288
   kilometres of dikes. Work was initiated within a few days of the

   1.3  Food security outlook

   a)  The food prospects for 1998 appear to be worse than in the previous
   two years. Domestic production of cereals is expected to cover less than
   half of the country's food needs. Commercial imports are likely to
   remain strained. Furthermore, as commercial imports last year were
   highly dependent on barter trade with China, the fact that the current
   drought also seriously affected crop production in the neighbouring
   Chinese province might reduce surpluses and the volume of the
   cross-border trade in 1998. It would thus seem that DPR Korea will
   depend on an even greater scale on international food aid next year.

   b)  Another joint FAO/WFP mission has been scheduled for October, when
   it will be possible to estimate more accurately the 1997 production
   outcome. The results will form the basis for a decision on continuing
   WFP assistance throughout 1998.

   1.4  The Special Report will be available in full in the near future on
   the Internet at the Web site of the FAO Global Information and Early
   Warning System on Food and Agriculture, at - then click on Special Reports.