North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for increasing grain production at a key four-day ruling party meeting through Wednesday focused on agricultural development, state-run media reported, amid speculation that the country has been suffering from a chronic food shortage.

At the plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea, which followed the previous plenum by an unusually short interval of two months, Kim said it is "important to concentrate on increasing the per-hectare yield at all the farms," the official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday.

He also stressed the need to enhance the role of the provincial, city and county guidance organs and all the farms in attaining the long-term objective of agricultural development, KCNA said.

Kim Jong Un gives a speech at a plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee, held from Feb. 26 to March 1, 2023, in Pyongyang. (KCNA/Kyodo)

Kim referred to the attainment of the grain production goal as the first target among 12 major goals for national economic development this year.

Food supply in North Korea is believed to be worsening due partly to economic sanctions imposed over its missile and nuclear programs as well as border closures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The South Korean presidential office said last month there have been multiple reports of people starving to death in North Korea.

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