Alt text for imageUp Cooperative Farm, Yonan County, South Hwanghae Province

To feed the current population of around 24 million inhabitants, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea requires about six million metric tons (MT)  of food grain annually. Against this demand, as per estimates provided by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), production is estimated to be 5 million MT  (2009). This food grain production is largely contributed by rice (2.3 million MT ), maize (1.7 million MT ), and potato (0.55 million MT ) cereal equivalent.

Maximizing  agricultural production by mitigating pre- and post-harvest losses, which are currently estimated to account for  approximately 15 percent  of national production, is an important strategy in this regard.

Problems in the post-harvest sector span a wide range. Causes of post-harvest (PH) losses include - use of outdated mills that result in a high percentage of broken grains, inadequate threshing machines that result in lost grain and badly paved, open lawns used for drying. Institutional and policy constraints also lead to losses.

Average crop yields in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, are substantially less than yields achieved in the other countries of this region. The main reasons for this are poor quality of soil (which lacks organic matter and soil nutrients due to continuous mono- cropping), inadequate supply of fertilizer, and poor quality seeds of inappropriate varieties.

Alt text for imagePyongyang Seed Project, Maekjon Foundation Seed Farm, Kangdong county

Poor quality of seed is reflected in the use of almost twice the normal quantity of seed per unit area used by farmers to grow rice and maize, perhaps to compensate for low germination percentage. With the successful double crop technology recently introduced in the country, maize and wheat are getting popular with the farmers as a second crop in addition to rice based mono- cropping farming. Among the limitations to expand double cropping, however, is inadequate supply of high quality certified seed.

The total seed requirement, excluding potato, is estimated to be 227 000 MT,calculated on seeding rates presently used by farmers, which are about twice the seeding rates used in other countries. If the germination quality of seed is improved and farmers are advised to economize on seeding rates, the effective demand for quality seed will be approximately 170 000 MT. The Seed Department of the MoA through its 240 co-operative seed farms is annually producing 156 000 MT  of certified seed under the seed certification system. At present it may not be possible to raise the quality of seed due to absence of appropriate seed rules, seed testing facilities in the regional crop inspection centres, and lack of trained professionals with knowledge of modern seed and seed health testing procedures. Furthermore, the seed production farms are not properly equipped for seed production, seed conditioning and storage.

Of the above-mentioned 156 000 MT, the percentage of seed supplied of acceptable quality according to international standards is estimated at 13 percent. Due to the lack of appropriate cleaning and processing facilities, seed farmers fail to meet the international standards in terms of rate of germination, moisture and impurities.

Reliable and timely data on food and agriculture is important for agriculture management. However, the existing agricultural information base in the country, which is in general, dependent on limited information provided by state farms and cooperatives, is not adequate to support the data needs of knowledge-based agriculture and food management. The country’s statistics institutions therefore need modern practices for collection, analysis and validation of results to support economic policy and planning at the sector and macro levels.