BEIJING (Reuters) - China has kicked off reforms to allow farmers to turn their assets into shares in various ventures to help boost their incomes, the country's agriculture minister said on Tuesday.


"At the present, it's urgent to safeguard farmers' property rights and it's more difficult to sustain increases in farmers' incomes,” Han Changfu told a news conference.


"The reform will help boost farmers' property-related incomes."


But the government will push forward the reform in an orderly manner given its complexity, he said.


Under the reform plan, farmers will be allowed to turn their assets, including land use rights and operating assets, into shares in various ventures, Han said.

The government will carry out "verification and evaluation" of collectively owned rural assets, which will be finished in around 3 years, starting from 2017.

"After that, operating assets will be quantified and allocated to members of collective economic organizations in the form of shares or allotments," Han said, adding that such reform will be completed in around 5 years.

No details were given.

China's villages have accumulated total assets of 2.86 trillion yuan ($411.27 billion), Han estimated.

China has relaxed rules to allow farmers to transfer their land rights to help promote more efficient, large-scale farms, amid an exodus of farm workers to the cities.

Farmland in China is collectively owned and farmers only have the right to contract and use the land. Many rural migrant workers have leased out their land to those who stay in the countryside or commercial entities.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)