WFP EMERGENCY REPORT Issued weekly by the United Nations World Food Programme A. DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA 1. UPDATE 1.1 Drought situation - report of the FAO/WFP crop and food supply mission 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 all. 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 disaster. 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 http://www.fao.org/giews/giewse.htm - then click on Special Reports.