Just before the celebration of National Land Day on June 25, the Ministry of Land and Resources announced that illegal land use has taken some 962,000 hectares (nearly 4 million square miles) of farmland. Farmland has been lost to unauthorized engineering projects, road construction, development zones and industrial gardens, and homes built by farmers.
Over cultivation and over grazing also have contributed to the expansion of deserts in China to some 2.62 million sq km (about one million square miles) of desert area, or 27.3 percent of the country’s total territory. The desert area is increasing some 2,460 sq km each year -- engulfing 105.23 million hectares (about 406,300 sq miles) of grassland, 7.72 million hectares (about 29,807 sq miles) of cultivated land, and 130,000 hectares (about 0.5 sq miles) of forests, economists say.
Economic experts agree that while China’s cultivated land is enough to support the country’s population, it is not enough to provide a good standard of living for China’s some 800 million farmers and herders. Only some 350 million farmers should be living on China’s existing farmland, economists say.
Some 130-million farmers and herdsmen have moved to town in recent years, which in turn has improved agricultural production, increased rural incomes, changed farmers’ lifestyles, and helped maintain social stability in rural China, economists say. They add that the migration of farmers to the city has helped with urban development while the small farm tracts left behind have been consolidated into larger tracts in ways that conform with general economic growth.