China allows farmers to transfer land-use rights


Chinese farmers will be allowed to transfer their land-use rights under a new policy to boost agricultural production and rural incomes, state media said on Sunday, detailing reforms previously announced by Beijing.

China's rural citizens, who number more than 730 million according to a 2006 census, own the product of their land but not the land itself, and are barred from trading their land-use rights under current laws.

"The new measures adopted are seen by economists as a major breakthrough in land reforms initiated by late leader Deng Xiaoping 30 years ago to avail farmers of opportunities to conduct scale management and new business operations," Xinhua said.

The plan was agreed upon at a meeting of the ruling Communist Party earlier this month.

"Such transfers of land-use rights must be voluntarily participated in by farmers, with adequate payment and in accordance with the law," Xinhua cited the Party's decision as saying.

Under Deng's reforms, the huge communes that were the jewels of Mao Zedong's communism were disbanded and farmers allowed to sell some of their produce on the open market, rather than being forced to sell it all to the state.

With the land itself still collectively owned, the present system has been rife with abuse. Local governments have seized rural plots to sell to factories and property developers, often paying only minimal compensation to farmers.

Thousands of protests against land grabs every year have alarmed Beijing, prompting discussions about how to give farmers greater security in their land rights, if not outright ownership.

Giving farmers more scope to transfer or pool their land into bigger, more modern agricultural operators would boost productivity and accelerate urbanisation, economists say.

Such land transfers have already been spreading, formally and informally, in recent years.