North Korea 'to introduce farming reform'

File photo: North Korean farmers, September 2011 North Korean farmers are currently required to give the state almost all of their production

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Reports from North Korea suggest reforms that will see farmers keep more of their crops instead of handing them to the state are to be introduced.

The move is seen as an attempt to boost productivity in a state-run economy that suffers chronic food shortages.

The changes have not yet been formally announced.

But reports have been circulating in recent months that the Kim Jong-un-led administration could be planning to introduce economic reforms.

On Tuesday the North Korean parliament is to hold a rare second annual session. No information about what the session will discuss has been released.

'Good harvest'

Reports of the possible changes came from both inside and outside North Korea.

Farmers in North Korea are currently required to hand over almost all of their production to the state, after keeping a portion for their families.

But two farm workers south of Pyongyang told the Associated Press (AP) news agency that new rules - allowing them to keep any surplus after a government quota had been met - would be implemented later this year.

"We expect a good harvest this year," farmer O Yong Ae told AP. "I'm happy because we can keep the crops we worked so hard to grow."

Reuters news agency also reported the plan, citing an unidentified source with ties to Beijing and Pyongyang.

"Peasants will have incentive to grow more food. They can keep and sell in the market about 30-50% of their harvest depending on the region," the news agency quoted the source as saying.

No official announcement has been made but analysts see it as a sign of a potential change of direction under the country's new leader, Kim Jong-un, who took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December 2011.

The younger Kim's powerful uncle, Chang Song-taek, visited China last month for talks believed to have focused on economic issues and investment.

North Korea cannot grow enough food to feed its people. Famine in the mid-1990s is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

A UN report released in July estimated that two-thirds of North Korea's 24m population suffer from a chronic shortage of food.

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