China will strive to keep its dwindling supply of basic farmland at the level of 106.6 million hectares (263.4 million acres) to secure food production, says Lu Xinshe, vice-minister of Land and Resources.
China's 126 million hectares (311 million acres) of farmland would shrink slightly owing to its accelerating pace of agricultural restructuring, urbanization and ongoing efforts to return some farmland to forestry and grassland to improve the environment, the deputy minister said on Wednesday.
He made the remarks at a just-concluded national conference on land and resources planning held in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning Province, northeast China.
In 2001 alone, China turned 590,000 hectares (1,457,890 acres) of its arable land into forestry and grassland to curb soil and water erosion, and lost 44,000 hectares (108,724 acres) of farmland in agricultural restructuring.
But it was vital for China's 1.3 billion population that enough farmland was kept to maintain a high proportion of self-sufficiency in grains in normal years and secure food production, said the deputy-minister.
Under Chinese law, other uses for land zoned as basic farmland is not allowed without the approval of the central government, including industrial and other non-farming development.
(Xinhua News Agency July 18, 2002)