SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Addressing reports of worsening food shortages in his country, North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un said the nation’s agricultural production must undergo a “fundamental transformation,” state media reported.

During a ruling Workers’ Party meeting on Feb. 27, Kim expressed his government’s determination “to bring about a revolutionary turn in the agricultural production without fail,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

The report did not describe any specific measures North Korea would take to address the problem, but Kim said the changes needed to happen “in the next few years.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said its neighboring country’s food insecurity “seems to have deteriorated,” in part due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reportedly has caused a reduction of grain imports from China. The US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service estimates that only 50,000 tonnes of wheat were imported by North Korea in the 2021-22 marketing year, compared to 400,000 tonnes the year prior to the pandemic.

The South Korean government estimates that North Korea’s grain production in 2022 was 4.5 million tonnes, well short of the 5.5 million tonnes of grain it needs annually to feed its 25 million people.

North Korea depends on collective farms for most of its agricultural production.