SARIWON, North Korea — Farmers would be able to keep a bigger share of their crops under proposed changes aiming to boost production by North Korea’s collective farms, which have chronically struggled to provide enough food for the country’s 24 million people.
Two workers at a farm south of Pyongyang told The Associated Press on Sunday that the new rules will allow them to keep any surplus crops — to sell, barter or donate — after they have fulfilled state-mandated quotas. Current rules require them to turn everything over to the state beyond what farmers can keep to feed their families.
The new directives have been widely rumored abroad but were never previously made public outside North Korea’s collective farms. The changes may seem highly technical to outsiders, but by giving farmers an incentive to boost production North Korea could be starting down the same path as China when it first began experimenting with market-based reforms in the 1970s.
They would also mark the first significant changes to North Korea’s collective farming system since leader Kim Jong Un took power earlier this year. The outside world has been watching closely to see how Kim’s rule will differ from that of his autocratic father, who died in December, and how he will deal with the country’s chronic food shortage.
The farmers at Migok Cooperative Farm in South Hwanghae Province, in southwestern North Korea, were informed of the changes during meetings last month, according to the workers. These new directives could take effect with this year’s upcoming fall harvest, they said.
“We expect a good harvest this year,” said O Yong Ae, a worker at the Migok farm, one of the region’s largest and most productive. “I’m happy because we can keep the crops we worked so hard to grow.”