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N. Korea's grain imports soar in April amid chronic food shortages: data


North Korea's grain imports from Russia nearly tripled on-year in April, data showed Wednesday, amid Pyongyang's chronic food shortages compounded by extreme weather and the coronavirus pandemic hampering cross-border trade.

According to the data by the US International Trade Commission, the North imported around $7.41 million worth of grain from Russia in April, compared with $2.55 million worth of imports reported a year earlier.

The amount far exceeded $3.79 million tallied in 2019. It was also slightly smaller than the $8.25 million in combined grain imports from Russia during the previous five years, the data showed.

The data did not show what grain North Korea imported, but it is presumed that wheat accounted for the largest portion given that Russia is its largest producer.

North Korea claims to have had a bumper harvest last year, but the North has been suffering from chronic food shortages caused by unfavorable weather and crippling global sanctions restricting its access to fertilizer and other key farming materials.

Compounding the situation is the North's move to close its border with China in late January to block the spread of the coronavirus, which observers expect to hamper grain imports.

A Seoul official said last month that North Korea is presumed to be facing a shortage of around 860,000 tons of grain this year.

The estimate was based on an earlier projection by a local state-run institute that the North produced around 4.64 million tons of grain last year, which was below the 5.5 million tons seen as the minimum amount needed to feed its 25 million people. (Yonhap)