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N. Korea's grain imports from China increase threefold

All Headlines 11:51 September 29, 2011

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea imported nearly three times as much grain from China in August as last year, an expert said Thursday, an unusual increase that may suggest food shortages in the impoverished nation have worsened.

The North purchased 47,978 tons of corn, flour and rice in August, up from 16,723 tons in the same period of last year, said Kwon Tae-jin, a North Korea expert at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

"It is unusual that the North increased grain imports sharply in August ahead of the harvest season in fall," Kwon said. "It is believed that the North increased imports as its grain stock is falling low."

The North imported 216,535 tons of grain from China in the first eight months, a rise of 20 percent compared to the same period last year.

China is the North's key ally, economic benefactor and diplomatic supporter.

North Korea suffered devastating floods in recent months that washed away tens of thousands of hectares of farmland, damage that is feared to threaten its already fragile food situation.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s when it suffered a massive famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.


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