Food has long been a major problem for North Korea, and tens of thousands faced starvation during a critical food shortage back in the late 1990s. Agricultural technology and the agriculture industry in North Korea have improved significantly since then, and now major crop failures and food shortages are mainly a thing of the past.

North Korea: Food Production Has Become A Major Focus

In that regard, according a UPI article, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been placing a priority on food production for some time now and that living and eating standards are gradually changing for some North Koreans.

However, in February of this year, the Washington Post reported that 2014 had been a very dry year and that several winter crops such as wheat and barley are likely to see harvests well below normal levels.

North Korea to produce farmed fish “for all seasons”

North Korea’s Central News Agency announced on Tuesday that Kim Jong Un had visited a fish food factory to “offer his guidance on correct production.” The name or location of the factory was not mentioned.

Apparently Kim emphasized the importance of producing a food surplus that could be used to boost North Korean exports. It is reported that Kim also said the North Korea’s Workers’ Party has “firmly decided” it will produce sufficient farmed fish for North Koreans to enjoy for “all four seasons.”

Hwang Pyong So, a veteran North Korean politician and general in the Korean People’s Army, was seen with Kim in videos of his visit to the facility.

State media sources also reported that Kim Jong Un visited a food factory in Pyongyang back on March 18. According to the report, he was visiting a new and modern facility in the Nakrang district of Pyongyang. The plant was processing corn to be used in a variety of foods.

Corm is the number one crop in North Korea. The report noted that the factory produced processed corn  used to make noodles, biscuits and other foods.

The KCNA report also focused on another plant that made modern foods that “taste good and is nutritious.” Yet another plant was plant was highlighted for the production of breads, biscuits, candy beer and ham.

The food processing plants were framed as “new innovations” under Kim. The North Korean leader has said on other occasions he has prioritized improving the diet of North Koreans.

Italian restaurant in North Korea

It might sound incongrous, but a high-end Italian restaurant opened in Pyongyang in 2008. The Italian restaurant was featured on Saturday in a broadcast on North Korea’s state television.

The restaurant serves localized pizzas with kimchi and crown daisy toppings. Restaurant employee Ri Bong Nyo commented that the pizzas are savory and designed for the tastes of North Koreans. Somewhat ironically, the restaurant also serves hamburgers and Swiss hash browns. The Italian restaurant food was described as “affordable treats for ordinary North Koreans” in the program.

Propaganda machine cranking up to hide recurring food shortage?

The timing of this “more and better food for North Koreans” campaign by the government seems just a little suspect given the recent reports of very poor winter food crop harvests in North Korea mentioned above. Western analysts are not predicting anything like the desperate situation of two decades ago, but it is certainly possible that there will be sporadic food shortages in some areas of North Korea later this year.