China vows to boost farmland protection as grain output falls


China has vowed to step up its protection of farmland in the wake of the country's first drop in grain output in over a decade, as rapid urbanization swallows agricultural resources.

In a document released late on Monday, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council said there was strong pressure on arable land and called for stronger protection and more efficient use of such land.

"Farmland should be protected the way we protect pandas," the government said in the document.

It added that it would achieve that using measures such as "strengthening control of land use" and "building high-quality farmland on a large-scale", although it did not give specific details.

China's 2016 grain output fell 0.8 percent from the year before to around 616 million tonnes, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday. The nation also had a shortfall of about 20 million tonnes in the amount of grain it produced and consumed, Xinhua said.

China aims to retain at least 124.33 million hectares of arable land in 2020, with no less than 103.1 million hectares of permanent farmland and at least 53.3 million hectares of high-quality farmland, the document said.

The world's No.2 economy had 135 million hectares of arable land at the end of 2015, according to official calculations.


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