More than 200 million rural households around the nation will be interviewed to help prepare the accurate record of farming rights.
Calling the task a “massive systematic project”, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday that clarifying land tenure and issuing certificates to farmers would form the basis of a series of expected reforms which aimed to help free up the rural land market.
Nearly 200,000 villages around the country – or one third of the total – have begun with the task, by aerial photography or site measurement, said MOA officials in a press conference.
Zhao Kun, a deputy inspector of the ministry’s rural economic system department, said local governments had appropriated a total of 8 billion yuan to carry out the job.
The central government has promised to provide 10 yuan for each mu of arable land – the Chinese unit of land area, which measures 666 square metres – a total of 18 billion yuan according to official data that states the mainland had 1.82 billion mu of farmland up to the end of 2011.
The Land Administration Law states that the ownership of rural land belongs to village collectives, with farmers given contractual rights to the land they farm for 30 years.
The central authorities decided to increase the security of land tenure in 2008. A directive issued that year said that contractual land management rights for farmers should “remain unchanged for a very long time”.
However, unlike urban home owners, rural residents do not yet hold any certification to prove their legal rights to their homes and farmland.
This makes it hard for them to transfer the land, which is forbidden by existing regulations but now being reformed in order to encourage larger scale farming and improve utilization efficiency of rural land.
Zhang Hongyu, head of the rural economic system department, said when farmers were given contractual rights of farmland in the first round of rural reform a few of decades ago, there were only rough estimates made about the size of their land plots owing to limitations over measuring methods at the time.
“Any related document the farmers previously had – either a contract or some other sort of certificate – showed different figures from what we are now finding,” he said.
Zhao said the project was not only a technical issue of measurement.
“It also involves interviews with each of the more than 200 million rural households [around the nation], which are really important for farmers as they need to know how big their plots are and where they’re located,” he said.