SCIO briefing on agriculture and rural development

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Mr. Han Changfu, minister of agriculture
Mr. Han Jun, director of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group
Mr. Ye Zhenqin, vice minister of agriculture
Mr. Wu Hongyao, deputy director of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group

Hu Kaihong, spokesperson of the State Council Information Office

Sept. 29, 2017

China Business News:

I have two questions. First, I would like to ask Mr. Han Changfu: the "No. 1 Central Document" in 2013 proposed that China should complete the registration for rural land contract rights and management rights in five years. And just now you mentioned that the rights covering 78 percent of the land has been made clear. During the process, are there any experiences and what are the difficulties? How will we handle the remaining 22 percent? And my second question is to Mr. Han Jun: Anhui, Hubei and Sichuan yesterday launched a minimum purchase price plan for medium and late rice. According to the plan, the minimum purchase price of 50 kilograms of medium and late indica and japonica was reduced by 2 yuan and 5 yuan respectively. The minimum purchase price of wheat was the same as 2016, but 3 yuan lower for early indica. So, what are the considerations behind such adjustment? Will there be further reforms in the future?

Han Changfu:

I will answer the first question. In relation to registering and certifying the rights to the contracted use of land in rural areas, I have stressed that it is a basic work. What kind of basic work is it? It is a basic work on rural reform, on the stability of rural land contract relations, and on the policy of separating land ownership rights, contract rights, and management rights for contracted rural land.

Primarily, land is collective and the form of ownership cannot be changed. Meanwhile, land is contracted by households and the contracting right cannot be changed, either. If this basic work can be done well, it will be of great significance for us to further improve the reform of rural land contract relations. President Xi Jinping said that, the main line of rural reform is still to manage well the relationship between farmers and the land.

The central document put forward outlines that it will take us five years to complete the work of registering and certifying the rights to the contracted use of land in rural areas. Namely by 2018, we will basically complete the work. The schedule may be postponed for some remote areas, ethnic minority areas and larger areas. Currently, five provinces have basically completed the work, and the country has completed 78 percent of the work.

When talking about experience, I would say there's a lot available. However, I think the most important experience may be summed up by the following two points. First, there is the attention of the leaders. Now, Party committees and governments at all levels, down to county Party committees and governments, are attaching importance to this matter, and organizing and implementing in accordance with the central government's policies, and then giving support in providing the best working conditions, in particular, leadership in regard to in-depth grass-roots research, so that the leaders can understand the situation and be able to resolve problems and conflicts. This may be a very important experience.

A second element involves relying on the public. It is a good thing for farmers when the central government issues them with the registry certificates confirming their rights to contracted farmland. This soothes farmers' nerves and they become active. You issue a certificate to one farmer, give him confidence that a land is contracted to him for a long time, and then he would like to expand, and move on to other places and businesses. Even when a new entity occupies his land, the original holder will still rest assured that all is well. We have to rely on the public to solve problems, so that in everything you should start from the realities, and rely on the public of a county, a township and a village to carry out the land contract work efficiently. In such a big country, with so many farmers and so much land to be cultivated, there are no huge clashes of interests and social instability. I think these two points are very important.

Han Jun:

The question you asked concerns a major reform carried out over the past few years. Generally speaking, we want to offer different policies to different products and reform the pricing system step by step.

The price of domestic corn has remained high, so Chinese processing factories and animal feed producers are inclined to use foreign products. From 2013 to 2016, they purchased 100 billion kilograms of foreign sorghum, barley, distillers grains and cassava to replace domestic corns in production.

This resulted in a growing stockpile of policy-supported corns. In view of this situation, in 2016, the government decided to reform the pricing system to let the market determine the price. Corn farmers are now subsidized directly, so as to guarantee their basic earnings.

Things are different concerning wheat and rice, which are a staple food.

Regarding wheat, supply and demand has remained basically balanced, with a gap of 2 million tons last year and a surplus of 5 million or 6 million tons this year. Because of the sound balance, the stock-piled policy-supported wheat can be auctioned at a price basically the same as the price the government purchased it - therefore not requiring a government subsidy. Wheat has a special advantage. It can be stored for a long time.

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