BEIJING, April 10 (Reuters) – China intends to map and document its most important cropland over the next three years, in an effort to ensure the country’s long-term food security.
Guidelines issued by the cabinet on Monday outline plans to demarcate 70.5 million hectares – 174 million acres or about 272,000 square miles, an area bigger than France – of key “grain production functional zones” and “major farm product protection zones” within the next three years, the official news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
That will include 40 million hectares for rice and wheat production and 30 million hectares for corn, a document on the new guidelines from China’s State Council showed.
The major farm product protection zones will include 6.67 million hectares reserved for soybeans in the north-east and North China plain, including the area rotated with wheat, 4.67 million hectares for rapeseed and 1 million hectares for sugarcane in Guangxi and Yunnan province.
An area of 2.3 million hectares is set aside for cotton and 1.2 million hectares for rubber.
After defining the land area to be included in these zones, the government will work to improve its output potential within five years, the document said.
China is now allowing some farmland to lie fallow to reduce huge stockpiles of grain and restore depleted soil. This is an unprecedented move for the world’s most populous country, which has long been preoccupied with guaranteeing self-sufficiency in food. But Beijing is also keen to underline that it will not jeopardise long-term food security.
Total agricultural land in the country is around 135 million hectares, but the government has set a base line for cultivated land area at 124 million hectares.
“The central government actually does not know the exact acreage of Chinese agriculture land … so this work would help to make sure China is above the 1.8 billion mu base line,” said Ma Wenfeng, analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultancy, referring to the equivalent number in mu, a traditional Chinese unit of land.
According to the guidelines, the land would be registered and uploaded to a database and managed using advanced technology.