China is a country with a large population and less arable land. With only 7 percent of the world's cultivated land, China has to feed one fifth of the world's population. Therefore, China's agriculture is an important issue and draws wide attention of the world. Some foreigners once raised the question, "Who will feed China?" China's leaders and agriculture experts' reply was, "We Chinese will feed ourselves."
This sector has developed rapidly since reforms in the rural areas begun in 1978. The major reforms were: the household contract responsibility system, which restored to the farmers the right to use land, arrange farm work, and to dispose of their output; canceling the state market monopoly of agricultural products, and of price controls over most of agricultural and ancillary products; abolishing many restrictive policies, allowing farmers to develop diversified business and set up township enterprises so as to fire their enthusiasm for production. The reforms emancipated and developed rural productive forces, promoted the rapid growth of agriculture - particularly in grain production - and the optimization of agricultural structure. The achievements have been remarkable.
In the 1990s, China's agriculture and rural economy faced unprecedented difficulties and challenges. But development momentum maintained fairly good nonetheless, with most products in surplus and supply and demand basically in balance every year. The year 2004 was a turning point; with grain production of 469.47 million tons, reversing a five year decline. Now China leads the world in output of grain, cotton, oil plants, fruit, meat, eggs, aquatic products and vegetables.
Output per capita has risen significantly. In 2004, grain output was 362 kg per capita; per capita figures for meat (pork, beef, and mutton), milk, and aquatic products were above world averages, reaching 44.6 kg, 17.4 kg, and 37.8 kg, respectively.
Increase in Outputs of Main Farm Products (Unit: 10,000 tons)