China transforms arid land to ensure adequate grain output 2007-12-26 16:24:00   Print

    CHANGCHUN, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- With the transformation of large swathes of salina land into paddy fields over the next four years, Jilin Province is expected to increase its rice output by one-third.

    Zhao Shengtang, Land and Resources Bureau director with the northeast China province, said 6.2 billion yuan (840 million U.S. dollars) will be invested between 2008 and 2011 to transform 270,000 hectares of salina land that was not previously suitable for crop planting into paddy fields.

    He added the project would be carried out through the diversion of water from the Nenjiang River. It would also use underground sources and water from a hydropower project reservoir.

    Salina land is defined as an area of land encrusted with salt. With treatment, it can be made arable.

    To help ensure grain output, China has been trying every means to increase its arable land over the past decade as rapid industrialization and urbanization had devoured large areas.

    By 2006, the country's arable land area shrank by eight million hectares, or six percent, to 121 million hectares compared with 130 million hectares in 1996.

    The central government said last year the country needed a minimum of 120 million hectares of arable land to grow enough grain to feed the country.

    "China faces great challenges to keep its agrarian land area above the alarming line, given its industrialization and urbanization continues to go ahead," said Zou Yuchuan, China Land Science Society president.

    "In addition to stressing more efficient land use, China should also find means to increase its agrarian land. Salina land near lakes, rivers and eastern coastal regions is an important alternative."

    He cited an example of a successful transformation of 6,600 hectares in eastern Shandong Province. The formerly barren salina area had been transformed into fertile and high-yield land for crops such as cotton.

    "If most of the salina land is successfully transformed, there will be an increase of 2 million hectares of arable land in our country," he estimated.

    China has also been striving to increase arable land through comprehensive treatment measures of current land resources. This includes the transformation of low-yield crop fields and reclamation of abandoned agrarian land.

    Official figures showed the country had carried out more than 700 land treatment projects since 1999 with an investment of five billion yuan (680 million U.S. dollars). This supplemented a total of 800,000 hectares of agrarian land.

    Wang Shiyuan, Vice Minister of Land and Resources, said land treatment would be the major way to supplement agrarian land for the country. The supplement potential in this sector was more than 5.5 million hectares.

    "The agrarian land reserve concerns a country's food safety," added Chen Zhouqi, director of the consultation and research center under the Ministry of Land and Resources. "The grain output needs to be increased to meet the demand of a growing population."

    By 2010, China's population is forecasted to near 1.4 billion. This required a domestic grain output of no less than 500 million tons annually to ensure food safety, according to Chen.

    China's grain output was 490 million tons last year and was forecasted to surpass 500 million tons this year.

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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