Increasing support for agriculture is on the agenda for the ‘two sessions’ central government meetings in Beijing.
On Monday, Premier Li Qiang said the government was focused on protecting farmland and making advances in the domestic seed industry. He further addressed farmers and said, “The state’s policy of supporting grain production will only increase and will not decrease.”
Minister of Natural Resources, Wang Guanghua, also laid out government priorities for the year involving the stabilization of farmland and efforts against illegal construction.
Specifically, there are efforts to increase the recovery of farmland in southern China. Wang said the government was looking to implement incentives and disincentives to encourage land that was previously used as farmland to be returned to agricultural use.
This is meant to reduce the grain flows from the northeast to southern China.
The three northeastern provinces are large grain producers but less economically developed. Southern provinces are more economically developed, creating greater incentives to illegally convert designated farmland to factories or housing.
This also leads to southern areas having relatively high grain supply deficits and companies needing to import grain from northeastern China, or from abroad.
Stabilizing farmland remains a challenge due to slow pace of land rights and leasing reform
Land reform and preventing land from being converted to non-agricultural uses continue to be a difficult problem despite government efforts to improve land management. This poses challenges to expanding farm sizes and achieving more efficient operations.
On Friday, Hunan province announced its first land registration under a new system to manage land use, contracts, and leases. The system is intended to give clearer legal rights to landowners and track the leasing of land to avoid disputes.
The program’s first registered plot was just 0.4 acres.
Hunan’s government published a very similar announcement in 2016, celebrating the start of a new “rural land contract management rights certificate” under a slightly different program. This helps illustrate the slow movement in land reform.
The current leasing systems also make it hard for large farmers to lease large areas of land for more efficient production.
In a 2021 study in the China Agricultural Economic Review, researchers noted that contract instability led to the higher breaking of leases and threats of price-hikes when small landowners contracted their land out to larger farms.