SEOUL South Korea is preparing to send 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea which is suffering a food shortage that has intensified in recent weeks, authorities said Wednesday.
The process is underway right now, a spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Unification told Efe.
The current plan is to finish this week although it could be delayed depending on the circumstances, the spokesperson added.
Last week Seoul said it would ship the rice valued at some 127 billion won (about $109 million dollars) and a $4.5 million shipment in cash through the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to address a situation that appears to be getting worse.
A recent report by the WFP and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said that over 10 million North Koreans (40 percent of the population) faced food shortages this summer due to poor harvests as a result of bad weather.
Rice prices in the Jangmadang (black markets that operate with the approval of the North Korean regime) fell between Jan. and April, according to price lists compiled by networks established by deserters.
However, the latest update published this week by the Daily NK digital newspaper founded and distributed in South Korea by defectors with extensive contacts in the North has shown the first sharp rise of the year.
In Pyongyang, a kilo of rice rose on average 16 percent compared to previous prices listed two weeks ago, while in Sinuiju and Hyesan (both border cities with China) the increase was 10 percent.
After completing the current procedures, which require the approval of the Inter-Korean Exchange Cooperation Committee (a body that works under the Ministry of Unification and brings together experts and civilians specialized in this area), the 50,000 tons of rice should reach North Korea before the end of September.
It will be the first time since 2010 that the South sends food aid to the North (with which it has been technically at war for seven decades) when it shipped some 5,000 tons of rice after severe floods.