China continues to lose vast areas of arable land to construction and development, a situation that has led to grain security concerns for the world's most populous nation.
Rapid economic development saw farmland acreage drop to 122 million hectares last year, 361,600 hectares less than in 2004.
Per capita arable land was 1.4 mu, or 0.093 hectares last October, down from 0.094 hectares only a year earlier, according to a China Youth Daily report on Wednesday.
A recent national land survey (excluding Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) by the Ministry of Land and Resources showed that land used for new construction totaled 212,000 hectares last year.
During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) period, China lost 6.16 million hectares of arable land, an average of 1.23 million hectares annually, as a result of economic growth and frequent adjustments to the agricultural production structure.
Accelerated industrialization and urbanization, expanding investment and afforestation also contributed to the decrease.
Vice Minister of Agriculture Fan Xiaojian pointed out that China could have problems feeding its 1.3 billion-plus population unless the trend is curbed.
"With the current acreage, it would be difficult to guarantee the country's safe grain supply," he said.
A ministry official said that the 11th Five-Year Development Guidelines (2006-2010) call for the cultivation of a guaranteed 120 million hectares of arable land. This means that China can only afford to lose 2 million hectares of farmland over the next five years.
Last year the government tightened restrictions on the acquisition of farmland for construction.
China's annual grain production is 484 million tons, but the government is aiming to raise this to 500 million tons.
(Xinhua News Agency April 6, 2006)