Strategic observation

China Focus: Rural land ownership reform unleashes greater growth potential

2018-03-08 20:21:28 (Beijing Time)         English.news.cn

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ZHENGZHOU, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Rural land ownership reform, which is under way across China's vast countryside, will unleash the productivity of the rural economy and help advance the nation's rural revitalization strategy.

In the 1950s, Chinese farmers turned over their lands to the people's communes. The reform in the early 1980s known as the household responsibility system redistributed the lands to farmers in the form of contracts, though legally the lands are still collectively owned.

Starting in 2014, China began piloting a reform to separate farmland ownership rights, contract rights, and management rights. The reform allows farmers to retain the contract rights but transfer the management rights. They can mortgage it to banks or invest it in a cooperative in exchange for fees or shares.

In Henan Province, one of the largest agricultural bases in China, the reform will be finished in two years. Counties have explored different ways of carrying out the reform.

In Linying County, central Henan, a government-controlled "land bank" was set up in 2015 to contract land from individual farmers. The "land bank" then leases it to more productive farmers or agricultural companies.

Farmer Dai Taoli, 63, in Nizhuang village of Fancheng township, had 0.3 hectares of farmland but became physically unfit for toiling in the field.

"I have spent my whole life working on the farm. My daughter and son have settled in the city and will not come back. I put the land in the bank and get 4,000 yuan (about 634 U.S. dollar) every year, without having to do farm work," said Dai.

Dai's land is contracted through the "land bank" to Wang Wuchuang, a highly capable farmer in the area.

"The land bank is the government's bank, which is a great assurance. I trust the government more than I trust anyone else to tend my plot of land. I receive my fee on time after I sign the contract," said another farmer, Liu Baoli.

The bank has collected more than 17,330 hectares of rural land, accounting for over half of the county's farmland in circulation. Farmers are paid 12,000 yuan (about 1,900 U.S. dollars) every year per hectare. The duration of the contracts are from five to 10 years. Farmers sign the contracts on a voluntary basis.

In areas where rural land is less fertile, the government has invested millions to improve the conditions of the land before it is made available for use.

Menglou township in Dengzhou City is located in a hilly part of Henan with poor rural infrastructure. Starting in August 2016, the city government founded an agricultural development company to contract land from farmers.

The township signed 5,966 contracts with farmers for 3,800 hectares of land. The agricultural development company then invested 136 million yuan (about 21 million dollars) to dig wells, build roads and improve land conditions, said Li Shuang, Communist Party chief of the township.

Menglou township government then invited researchers from Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry to help plan farming. Now around 10 companies grow peanuts, sorghum and other crops on the field.

"The reform is a key to solve the predicament of China's countryside. It is expected to greatly boost efficiency, strengthen the collective economy, develop productivity and help modernize agriculture," said Song Xiangqing, deputy director of the public management institute at Beijing Normal University.