UNITED NATIONS - NORTH Korea is heading for a 'chronic' new food crisis with drought and floods in different parts of the country exacerbated by cuts in international aid, the United Nations said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed concern 'that the acute humanitarian needs' of at least 3.5 million women and children in North Korea would worsen because of food shortages.

Even though North Korea is considered by many to be the world's most isolated state, Mr Ban said in a report to be discussed Friday that 'the global economic crisis is further increasing the levels of hardship' adding to the 'chronic food insecurity'.

North Korea suffered famine like conditions in the 1990s in which several hundred thousand people died, according to aid groups. There are worries now as the North heads into its notoriously long and biting winter.

There has been a shortage of rainfall in some parts of the country but in August torrential downpours caused floods in the north, near the Chinese border.

The UN predicted that the cereal yield would be nearly a fifth lower than in 2009. It said the country needs 3.5 million tons (3.17 million tonnes) of cereals a year to feed its population and would have to import 1.1 million tons. In addition, UN agencies had raised only 20 per cent of the US$492 million (S$640 million) they estimated in 2009 would be needed for the North.

N.Korea headed for food crisis