Chinese Government Reports Lower Rate of Arable Land Loss in 2004

March 30, 2005

The amount of arable land lost in China last year dropped 68 percent compared with 2003, reports the Ministry of Land and Resources. According to MLR survey results released March 29 (1, 2), China lost a total of 801,000 hectares of arable land in 2004, compared with 2.5 million hectares in 2003. The MLR also reports that the total amount of land used for new construction nationally declined 37 percent from the prior year. Of the 267,000 hectares of land used in new construction in 2004, 125,000 hectares were used for industry and mining (a category that includes development zones), 82,000 hectares for urban construction, and 61,000 hectares for basic public works. For English-language summaries of the survey, click here and here.

Chinese reports on the survey results attribute the decline to recent central government efforts to protect arable land. Government and Party leaders placed a high priority on slowing the loss of arable land last year, enacting strict new limits on farm seizures and new development. It is unclear how reliable the new survey statistics are, however. According to a 21st Century Business Herald report published earlier this month, the MLR is preparing to launch a comprehensive national land survey because much of China’s current data is unreliable (see related story here). In a lengthy review of China’s land crisis published in January, Southern Weekend also reported that a satellite survey conducted last year revealed "shocking large" losses of arable land and described how local governments often adopt "countermeasures" to protect local development zones (see related story here).