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North Korea: What does 240,000 metric tons of food mean?

February 29, 2012 |  1:20 pm

Hunger is a known menace in North Korea: In most of the country, even a bowl of rice is a rare treat. North Korea and the U.S. are poised to strike a deal that would bring 240,000 metric tons of food aid to the impoverished country if it suspends nuclear weapons tests and enrichment.

What would all that food really mean for North Korea? Here's a quick look.

Experts Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland have estimated that North Korea has been falling below the minimum grain supplies needed for each person to have enough food, as the graph below shows.

The yellow line represents their estimates; the blue line is U.N. estimates, which are somewhat lower. The Times added a green arrow to show how 240,000 metric tons of U.S. aid could change that.

As it illustrates, 240,000 metric tons of added food could mean the difference between falling short and scraping by -- which is why the aid was an important bargaining chip in this nuclear deal.

Humanitarian groups have misgivings about hitching humanitarian aid to negotiations, fearing the aid could be divorced from actual need.

The exact details of the food donations have yet to be worked out. Haggard, a professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UC San Diego, said the food will probably come in forms such as nutritional biscuits and baby formula as a way to steer it away from elites.

Northkoreafood

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North Korea nuclear deal tied to food aid

North Korea nuclear deal: Five ideas about what it means 

North Korea offers to suspend nuclear weapons tests, U.S. says

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

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