February 3, 2015

 

China to embark on farm modernisation program

 

 

China's central government has pronounced that modernising the country's agriculture is its first priority for this year, as it seeks to increase small farmers' incomes and deal with food safety issues.

 

In its "first policy document," also known as the Number One Document, which was issued in January and released only on February 1, the government said it will focus on modern farming, food safety and rural reform in trying to build a strong rural sector. This new focus apparently is a move to win back consumers who have turned to imported food products over food-safety concerns, resulting in diminished income of small farmers.

 

As China's economy is expected to slow down in 2015, the government faces the challenge of boosting farmers' incomes and maintaining the pace of rural development.

 

"This transformation [of the rural sector] is important. The government has shifted its focus on quantity of farming products to the balance among quantity, quality and efficiency. The previous documents haven't focused on that before", said Chen Xiwen, director of the Central Rural Work Leading Group.

 

The document also introduces the concept of building the rule of law in rural areas to better protect farmers' property rights and their operation rights over farmlands.

 

"As reforms in the sector continues, the transfer of farmlands and other rural resources becomes more frequent. How to protect farmers' legal rights in these transactions needs further government efforts," said Li Guoxiaong, researcher at Rural Development Institute, CASS.

 

Primacy of agriculture

 

This is the 12th straight year that the first policy document makes agriculture a first priority, as the world's No. 2 economy continues to deal with the issue of food security.

 

According to the document, China China will set up modern farms and enhance regulation of the quality of food and other farm products.

 

Moreover, the government will create "permanent farmlands" that are off-limit to industrial and urban development.

 

It will also encourage private investments in farms and provide cheaper financing options to more farmers. The Postal Savings Bank of China, which caters to low-income entrepreneurs, will specifically be asked to expand in villages, according to the document.

 

The government will also continue giving direct subsidies to farmers, the document said. At present soybean and cotton growers enjoy these subsidies under a trial program.

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