North Korea has suffered its severest drought in 37 years, state-run media reported Wednesday, fanning fears about food shortage in the nation whose economy has been already sluggish amid international economic sanctions.

"According to a meteorologist, the average precipitation of the country from January to early May was 54.4 mm (millimeters), 42.3 percent of the average annual precipitation," the Korean Central News Agency said.

"It is the lowest figure since 1982" when the average precipitation in North Korea was 51.2 mm, the news agency said, adding, "The agricultural sector is directing efforts to securing water to prevent drought damage."

The United Nations has estimated that more than 10 million North Koreans, or about 40 percent of the population, are undernourished. The country has faced food shortages due partly to natural disasters including floods and a failing food distribution policy in the past.

North Korea's economy is also believed to be lackluster against a backdrop of economic sanctions aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.