Beijing has lifted a six-month ban on the leasing of farmland for development - a sign that tough administrative measures will be phased out after last week's interest rate increase. The ban was introduced in April as part of the central government's efforts to tame runaway economic growth, especially in the cement, steel, aluminium and property sectors where investment in new infrastructure had run amok. State media reports said the ban had been effective in curbing investment and straightening out malpractices in the property sector. According to the Beijing News, the end of the ban will be accompanied by new guidelines on the conversion of farmland. It did not give details of the rules. Improper land-use rezoning by local governments had been one of the main factors stoking red-hot fixed-asset investment, which grew by more than 42 per cent in the first quarter of the year. Last week, Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that Beijing would firmly implement its land-management policy and impose harsh punishments for the illegal occupation of farmland. But the premier also said the central government would work out a market-oriented mechanism to set benchmark prices for land deals, indicating market forces will be allowed to play a bigger role in future land-management efforts. The mainland raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade last week, a move seen as a part of a central government push to emphasise the use of market tools to fine-tune the economy. Mr Wen warned that the pace of converting arable land for other purposes and the area of land converted should be put under strict control. The government should also rein in excessive conversions of land use in development zones. Local authorities should use land efficiently and economically, he said. To prevent the wastage of farmland, new projects should first be built on existing vacant land. Farmers who lost their land should be relocated and compensated appropriately and in a timely fashion, he stressed.