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Ministry Sets Farmland Conservation Target
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China's Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) will urge provincial governments across the country to conserve a total of 120 million hectares of arable land till 2020, because farmland shrinkage is threatening the country's grain production.

The decision was made after the State Council, or China's cabinet,rejected the ministry's previous plan for land use last September. The first plan proposed to guarantee the acreage until only 2010, according to ministry sources.

The ministry has started working on a revised plan, which analysts believe will require local governments at all levels to make greater efforts to protect arable land and impose stricter controls on the use of farmland for construction.

From 1996 to 2004, China's arable land shrank from 130 million hectares to 122 million hectares, with an annual average decrease of 950,000 hectares.

Meanwhile, China's population has been growing by 10 million each year, leading to concerns about food security in the world's most populous nation, where 22 percent of the world's population live on only 7 percent of the world's arable land.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2006)

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