Seoul, June 16, 2012 (AFP) - A long and widespread drought has ravaged one of North Korea's breadbasket provinces, state media say, sparking fears of worsening food shortages in the impoverished communist state. "Most areas of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Hwanghae province in particular, have experienced a long spell of drought," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. Friday's report said crops were withering due to the most serious drought in the western province in 60 years -- hitting maize, wheat, barley and potato crops. Essential rice and corn planting have also been badly affected across the country, KCNA said last month. Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out to help battle the drought with tractors, lorries, water pumps, sprinklers and other means, KCNA said. Pyongyang's official media have been urging workers and government employees to help farmers. North Korea suffers chronic food shortages, with the situation frequently exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement. During a famine in the mid to late-1990s, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are believed to have died as the official food rationing system largely collapsed. International food aid has also dwindled due to rows over the North's missile and nuclear programmes.