China Balances Economy, Food Security by Urging Careful Reforms

China will push forward rural land reforms in a cautious manner as it tries to balance bolstering food security, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, with economic growth.

The remarks were made by agriculture minister Tang Renjian after China issued a plan over the weekend pledging to boost “rural revitalization.” The policy document addresses a raft of measures, including the transfer and leasing of rural land, which is a core issue in helping rural residents become more prosperous as their incomes currently lag behind urban peers.

“On rural land issues, we cannot simply calculate the economic returns,” Tang said in an article posted on the ministry’s website. It’s important for farmers to have a house and piece of land as this has played an important role in stabilizing the countryside, especially during the pandemic when 30 million migrant farmers were unable to travel to cities to find work, he added.

China’s plan to rejuvenate its backward countryside is part of broader efforts to spur growth. It aims to reduce the urban-rural divide and propel the economy toward greater self-reliance, said Bloomberg Economics, adding that policies to modernize agricultural production and boost rural infrastructure may be an important new driver of the economy in coming years.

Tang emphasized the need for China to maintain a “red line” that guarantees total arable land of no less than 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) and ensure that permanent farmland is mainly planted with grains, fruits and vegetables so that the country can be self-reliant. China will use technology, including genetically modified organisms, to improve crop yields given its limited farmland and water resources, he said.

The government will also make sure that farmers can make money from growing grains by providing subsidies, and party chiefs of provinces should take responsibility to ensure sufficient grain supplies, Tang said.

“We will try to produce and store as much grains as possible to deal with any uncertainty in the external environment,” Tang said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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