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Arable land barely above critical minimum
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China's arable land stood at 1.83 billion mu (27.45 billion hectares) as of October 31, 2006, a mere 26.6 million mu above the 1.8 billion mu critical mark set by the government, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Friday.

The figure was originally reported by the Ministry of Land Resources in 2006 and subsequently confirmed by the NBS. More than one-third of the arable land was in the west, while eastern and central China each had about 22 percent of the total. The northwest had only 17.6 percent, according to the NBS agricultural census. More than half of the total area was dry land, the census said. Rice paddy and irrigable land comprised about 26 percent and 18.9 percent of the total, respectively. Unremitting urbanization and property development have devoured massive amounts of farmland in China, threatening grain supply and agricultural development. The government has implemented a slew of measures to guard the remaining land against commercial use. The State Council issued a circular last month saying any construction project that needs to occupy farmland or vacant rural land shall have to apply for official approval. Without land use approval, no other authorities shall give go-ahead to the project, it said.

"No water, power and gas shall be provided for these projects, and no financial institutions shall be permitted to offer them loans," it said.

Urban dwellers are banned from buying residential land or houses from farmers, nor may they buy apartments developed in rural areas by local authorities in violation of the state regulations, it stressed. The State Council also quintupled the tax on the use of arable land for non-farming purposes and charged foreign-invested companies as much as their domestic peers in a bid to protect farm land and control land supply.

(Xinhua News Agency March 1, 2008)

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