SCIO briefing on agriculture and rural development

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Speakers:
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

Chairperson:
Hu Kaihong, spokesperson of the State Council Information Office

Date:
Sept. 29, 2017

The industrial structure has been further improved, particularly in processing of agricultural products, farm-based recreation and agricultural tourism, and rural e-commerce. Development has been pursued in rural areas where the primary, secondary and tertiary industries have further been integrated. In 2016, the ratio between the processing of agricultural products and total agricultural output reached 2.2:1, e-commerce turnover of agricultural products reached 220 billion yuan, and farm-based recreation and agricultural tourism earned 570 billion yuan. Meanwhile, the production and supply of agricultural products featuring "green, ecological, high quality and safety" have increased significantly.

The regional structure is more reasonable. The concentrated area for grain, edible oil, cotton and sugar products continues to increase. Pig farming has been transferred to major grain-producing areas with a better environment. The output from major farming areas devoted to pigs and cows accounted for 80 percent and 60 percent respectively of the national total.

Third, modern agricultural construction has taken new steps, with the level of technology and equipment improved greatly.

Agricultural mechanization has been clearly enhanced. The level of comprehensive mechanization has reached more than 65 percent for the cultivation and harvest of all main crops. The cultivation and harvest of wheat is fully mechanized, while corn and rice have been more than 75 percent mechanized. These developments indicate that agriculture in China has pivoted from the centuries-old approach based on animal and human labor to mechanical engineering.

The level of technicalization has also been noticeably enhanced. Advances in agricultural science and technology contributed to 56 percent of agricultural production. Thus, China's agricultural development has gone from relying mainly on an increase of resources to a new phase of relying on technological progress.

Premium seed varieties have also increased. Improved breeds account for 96 percent of main crops, while the breeds and localization ratios of livestock are improving every year.

The production scale has also increased. There are more than 2.9 million new types of agribusiness in operation, such as family farms, farmers' cooperatives and leading industrial corporations. The proportion of suitably scaled-up operations of land reached 40 percent.

The installation of equipment and facilities has substantially increased. A total of 500 million mu of high-standard farmland was built to ensure stable yields regardless of drought or excessive rain, with more than 52 percent of farmland effectively irrigated. The facilities-equipped farmland covered 55 million mu. This indicates that the agriculture industry will no longer fully depend on the mercy of the natural environment.

Han Changfu:

Fourth, rural reform has been pushed forward with a new top-level design. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has chaired 38 group meetings among members of the CPC Central Committee to deliberate on deepening reform, of which rural reform has been singled out for consideration 18 times. During these meetings, they scrutinized 24 plans in regard to rural reforms and issued several circulars, including the separation of the "three rural rights", namely, land ownership rights, contract rights and management right. Other reforms covered the collective property right system, the development of appropriate scaled operations of land, and the agricultural land reclamation reform. All in all, the fundamental framework of rural reform has been established.

The reform of the "three rural rights", in particular, has become an institutional design reflecting immense political wisdom and a visionary view to meet the expectations of farmers in preserving their contract rights and contract management rights of land under transfer. It represents a new round of significant systematic innovation following the establishment of the household contract responsibility system in rural China.

Rural collective property rights system reform is crucial to improve the rural production relationship. It clarified the ownership of property rights, activated collective assets, and increased property income for farmers.

The registration of land rights has become essential to rural reform. The country has so far completed the registration of 1.05-billion-mu (1 mu=0.067 hectare) of rural land.

Fifth, greener agricultural development and initial success in solving prominent resource and environmental problems. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, pointed out that it is a profound revolution in development philosophy to pursue green agriculture. We have pushed for green production models and actively prevented and controlled agricultural pollution from nonpoint sources. This has been pursued mainly through five campaigns: curbing pollution from animal manure, replacing chemical fertilizers with organic ones in the production of fruits, vegetables and tea, treating crop straws in northwest China, protecting aquatic life (especially those inhabiting the Yangtze River), and recycling agricultural films. As a result, agriculture is now less resource-intensive, the coefficient on the effective utilization of water for farmland irrigation has risen above 0.55, 2.83 million hectares of marginal farmland have been turned into forests or grasslands, the crop rotation and fallow land trials have been expanded to 800,000 hectares, and the strain on resources and the environment from agricultural development has decreased. In addition, the worsening trend of agricultural pollution from nonpoint sources has moderated, the administration of pesticides has remained unchanged, the use of chemical fertilizers has seen almost zero growth, green technologies for preventing and controlling pests and diseases have been employed in over 33 million hectares of land growing grain crops, vegetables, fruits and tea, and the utilization rates of animal manure and crop straws and the recycling rate for agricultural films have all risen above 60 percent. (In short,) agriculture is turning green and rural areas are becoming beautiful.

Sixth, rural incomes have increased further, remarkably improving the living standard of farmers. In 2016, their per capita disposable income exceeded 12,000 yuan, with a four-year average annual growth of 8 percent, or a growth of near 1,000 yuan a year. In the first half of this year, the income growth continued to maintain a good momentum, with a growth rate of 7.4 percent, so that the income level is expected to reach 13,000 yuan by the end of this year.

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