13 Oct 2008

China agrees land reform package

9:03 am on 13 October 2008

Communist Party leaders in China have agreed on a package of rural reforms.

Xinhua news agency said on Sunday the Communist Party of China Central Committee had approved "major issues" on reform.

No details were given but it is thought farmers will now have more power to transfer or rent their land.

Party leaders have said they want to lift the income of China's rural population of 740 million to boost growth and ease social unrest.

Since the break-up of massive communal farms three decades ago, individual families have been permitted to farm their land under 30-year government contracts.

However, the BBC reports that farms are small, averaging about 1.66 acres (0.67 hectare) in size, according to government figures, making it hard to run the farms profitably.

To maximise production, many farmers swap chunks of land to be held in common by the village.

People leaving the village to work in richer coastal areas often lease farming rights to others in informal arrangements.

State media in recent days have been extolling the "success" of new farming arrangements in places such as Xiaogang village in Anhui province.

President Hu Jintao recently visited the village, where farmers are leasing their land to other farms or companies to run, for example, a pork farm and a vineyard.