BEIJING — A policy of promoting and standardizing the transfer of the right to use farmland from rural residents to commercial entities is expected to raise the efficiency of agricultural production in China.
According to the policy announced on Oct 30, rural residents will enjoy greater freedom of transferring the land they have contracted, while their right to collectively own the land remains unchanged.
Most of China’s farmland is owned collectively by the people who work on it. As the rural workforce migrated to better paid jobs in the big cities, China began, in 2008, to allow farmers to rent out, transfer and merge the land they have contracted, amid a reform to bolster modern farming and reuse unattended land.
The use of farmland is a big issue in the world’s most populous country where food security and the well-being of both current and former rural residents are matters of high priority.
China bid farewell to the era of people’s commune and introduced rural land reforms, known as the household responsibility system (HRS), in the early 1980s. The HRS allowed rural households to lease land for independent operation. After paying a fixed amount to the government, they could freely dispose of surplus production to the market. This had greatly stimulated farmers’ production enthusiasm and boost the country’s grain output.
But as China becomes increasingly urbanized, lots of farmers migrated to cities, leaving their farmland unattended. There have been a growing demand from rural residents for transferring farmland to others for management and production.
The new policy will lead to the formation of mechanisms that will make the transfer more standardized, while the land owners’ rights will be better protected.
Governments at various levels are asked to make sure the transfer will not lead to a decrease in arable land or a drop in grain output.
Governments should also guard against forced transfers and farmland being used for non-farming purposes under the guise of “land transfers.”