China's Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) has issued a circular ordering all local authorities to take tough measures to protect croplands in an effort to increase farmers' incomes.
The circular requires that all land management authorities across the country should protect farmland in the "strictest" manner and prohibits non-agricultural use of farmland.
Local land and agriculture departments are ordered to step up a nationwide survey of arable land to collect data on arable land management and ensure national grain security.
All transgressions in granting arable land use rights, illicit expropriations of arable land and actions damaging to arable land management will be rectified during the survey and those who are directly responsible will be punished according to the law, the circular says.
The circular orders local land authorities, in land requisitions, should take into account farmers' opinions for the sake of their rights and interests. Compensation standards for farmers who lose their land should be set on the prerequisite of being able to maintain their living standards and secure their future livelihoods as well.
Meanwhile, the circular urges local governments to boost the development of the second and tertiary industries in rural areas by providing non-farm use lands for those industries.
In addition, all land departments across the country are urged to earnestly study and carry out the requirements set by a "No. 1 Document" on policies to increase farmers' incomes and protect farmland, which was jointly issued by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council on Feb. 8.
China has 900 million people, or nearly 70 percent of the total population, living in rural areas, and about 130 million hectares of arable land, or 0.1 hectares per capita, which is less than 40 percent of the world average.
Some local governments have in recent years begun a frenzy of construction of development zones or industrial parks with no regard for local conditions, greatly reducing arable land and endangering China's security in grain supply.
Statistics from the MLR show that in 2003 alone, China's farmland acreage decreased by 2.67 million hectares to 123.4 million hectares.
(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2004)