BEIJING - The government plans to invest more than 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) over the next five years to ensure enough farmland to guarantee China's food security, the Ministry of Land and Resources said over the weekend.
The investment will improve about 4 million hectares of land and replenish an additional 670,000 hectares of arable land in major grain producing areas. These are Hebei, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Shandong and Hubei provinces, and the Inner Mongolia and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous regions.
The plan will add 10 million tons to China's annual grain capacity, the ministry, which supervises land use, said.
"We need to protect the arable land base for grain security while also providing land for economic development," Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi said.
"It's a dilemma. To solve the problem, we need to use land more economically, reduce farmland seizures for industrial and residential use, and try all means available to increase our country's arable land area."
China began improving its farmland's per-unit grain production capacity by upgrading the ecological environment for cultivation beginning in 2008. The move was made to alleviate food security concerns over shrinking arable land amid the country's rapid economic growth and urbanization.
The government has improved 4 million hectares of farmland and turned another 1.33 million hectares of reserve land into arable farmland, boosting its cultivated land productivity by about 10 to 20 percent, the ministry said.
China's grain output rose 2.9 percent year-on-year in 2010 to 546.41 million tons, marking the seventh consecutive year of growth, preliminary figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics earlier this month said.
The country's grain production area also expanded 0.8 percent from a year earlier to 109.87 million hectares, the bureau said.
Food security remains a major government concern as the country's arable land continues to shrink amid rapid economic growth and urbanization while its population keeps expanding.
Provincial governments have been urged to conserve 120 million hectares of arable land nationwide by 2020, because farmland shrinkage is threatening grain production.
"Our country must hold tightly to the bottom line of 120 million hectares of arable land," Xu said. "This is the lifeline of food security for our 1.3 billion people."