China will spend 333 billion yuan (US$40.2 billion) to create an extra 2.74 million hectares of farmland by 2010, the Ministry of Land and Resources announced Wednesday.
China had a total of 126 million hectares of cultivated land by the end of last year.
Under the new program, the ministry will aim to maintain an adequate stock of farmland, which is under increasing threat from the country's construction boom.
But most of the new cultivated land will come through reclamation and developing scattered lands, instead of developing wasteland.
"The country's farming land is in most cases scattered, with too many ridges and too many idle small pieces of land," said Hu Shanshun, a publicity official with the ministry.
Most of China's remaining wastelands are in areas with harsh natural conditions.
The development of scattered lands is expected to create about 6 million more hectares of farmland in the long run.
Moreover, there are still 4 million hectares of abandoned mining and construction sites, 38 percent of which can be effectively transformed into arable land through reclamation.
Fan Zhiquan, director of the Department of Cultivated Land, said: "Improving land use efficiency is essential to help conserve the country's farmland, in the meantime enough land will be provided to support the growing national economy."
The program also divides the country into seven different regions and outlines different ways of achieving the goal of increasing farmland reserves.
(China Daily March 20, 2003)