Belts of farmland to be protected around China’s big cities

Aim is to curb spread of cities and help ensure food supplies to world’s most populous nation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 January, 2015, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 January, 2015, 6:43pm

The government in China has confirmed it is to establish permanent belts of arable land around 14 of the country’s biggest cities to curb the rampant expansion of big urban centres and to help ensure future food supplies, a mainland newspaper reported.

Prime farmland around the 14 most populous cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, will be off-limits to commercial development and set aside for agriculture only, the China Business News reported.

The decision was announced by the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing on Monday, the report said.

After the policy has been implemented in cities with a population of more than five million, it will be rolled out to smaller cities and towns around the country.

The permanent arable belt will create set boundaries for China’s rapidly expanding cities, which have swallowed up vast swathes of surrounding farmland in the past decades.

A national land survey found that 130,000 square kilometres of farmland, equivalent to about half the area of the United Kingdom, disappeared in the rush for urbanisation between 1996 and 2009.

The area of urban land soared past 8 million hectares in 2013, according to a report by the China Land Surveying and Planning Institute published last month.

By contrast, the amount of cultivated land per head of population in China was only 0.101 hectare in 2009, less than half the world average.

Analysts say policies are needed to rein in the spread of cities, but more also needs to be done to stop local governments selling off lucrative rural land to developers.