North Korea continued to buy fertilizer from China in bulk last month, data showed Friday, as the impoverished nation has revved up efforts to increase food production. The North brought in 13,769 tons of Chinese fertilizer in February, a whopping 13 times more than some 1,064 tons from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Korean Rural Economic Institute (KREI). In the first two months of the year, Pyongyang imported 48,882 tons of Chinese fertilizer, which is far higher than 1,066 tons from the same period a year earlier, the data showed. "The 2013 figure is unprecedented, as the North used to buy a limited amount in the winter season. It seems to be very proactive in securing fertilizer long ahead of its usual schedule, and that indicates farm output improvement is its top priority," said KREI researcher Kwon Tae-jin. In his New Year's message, the North's young leader Kim Jong-un stressed boosting food production, saying all efforts "should go for agriculture ... in order to build a strong economy and to improve the people's livelihoods." Last year, Pyongyang bought a total of 207,334 tons of fertilizer from China, down by 18 percent from the previous year.