China Halts Plan to Convert Farmland to Forest

Sept. 11, 2007 (Xinhua)- The Chinese government has decided to suspend its plan of converting 1.07 million hectares of farmland into forest to meet its pledge of reserving a minimum of 120 million hectares of land for farming during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), the State Council said in a statement released on Monday.

In 2005 the government issued a plan to plant trees on 1.3 million hectares of farmland from 2006 to 2010, but the rapid speed of farmland losses forced the plan to be suspended.

The afforestation of some 267,000 hectares of farmland that had been arranged in 2006 would continue, the State Council said.

The announcement said that the government would continue to provide subsidies to farmers who have converted their farmland into forest to compensate their loss of income.

According to the announcement, farmers from different regions are entitled to different levels of subsidies ranging from 20 to 105 yuan per mu (15 mu is equal to one hectare) each year for two to eight years.

The government will also set up a special fund to consolidate reforestation projects that have already been finished. The fund will be channeled to major reforestation areas to build basic grain farmland for rural households, as well as rural energy construction, biological immigration and forestry maintenance.

The farmland reforestation plan was started in 1999. It has so far converted 24.3 million hectares of fragile farmland on hillsides into forests.

Currently China has 122.07 million hectares of farmland, very close to the warning line of 120 million hectares that the country should maintain during 11th Five-Year Plan so as to ensure the country's food supply.

In order to keep away from the limit, China should hold farmland losses to less than 433,333 hectares per year in the coming years.

SOURCE: Xinhua News Agency

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