Low re­turns from agri­cul­ture slowed growth of land trans­fers, re­port says

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By HOU LIQIANG houliqiang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The coun­try needs to deepen re­forms in ru­ral ar­eas to bring fresh im­pe­tus to the ru­ral econ­omy, which has seen growth rates slow, ex­perts said af­ter the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences pub­lished a re­port on Fri­day on China’s ru­ral de­vel­op­ment.

There has been a slow­down in farm­ers’ in­come growth with the in­crease of agri­cul­tural costs, the de­crease of job op­por­tu­ni­ties for mi­grant work­ers and the slow­down in the growth rate of land rights trans­fers, which hin­ders economies of scale, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Per capita dis­pos­able in­come for ru­ral res­i­dents in­creased by 6.2 per­cent in 2016. The growth rate was down by three per­cent­age points from 2014. Over the same pe­riod, the growth rate of per capita dis­pos­able in­come for ur­ban res­i­dents de­creased by only 1.2 per­cent­age points, said the re­port.

It also said wages, farm­land oper­a­tions and prop­erty in­come cover 40.6 per­cent, 38.4 per­cent and 2.2 per­cent of ru­ral res­i­dents’ per capita dis­pos­able in­come re­spec­tively.

In re­cent years, the rapid growth in agri­cul­tural costs has se­verely af­fected the com­pet­i­tive­ness of China’s grain in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket and the in­dus­try’s ef­fi­ciency, said Pro­fes­sor Wei Houkai, lead au­thor of the an­nual re­port.

In 2015, the av­er­age na­tional cost of a hectare of rice, wheat or corn was 16,350 yuan ($2,410), more than dou­ble that in 2007, and the profit from some agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, in­clud­ing corn, soy­bean and cot­ton, were neg­a­tive, he said.

The low re­turns from agri­cul­ture has slowed the growth of land trans­fers since 2013. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, rights for 31.4 mil­lion hectares of farm­land were trans­ferred from the own­ers to other oper­a­tors in 2016, an in­crease of 1.8 per­cent year-on-year, far lower than the 4 per­cent growth ex­pe­ri­enced from 2012 to 2014.

The slow­ing growth of work op­por­tu­ni­ties for farm­ers in ur­ban ar­eas due to the slug­gish econ­omy and the re­duced need for la­bor af­ter in­dus­trial up­grad­ing also af­fects farm­ers’ wages, he said.

Many pre­vi­ous re­forms are short-term ones meant to han­dle im­me­di­ate prob­lems and lack for­ward-look­ing and over­all strate­gic con­sid­er­a­tion and sys­tem plan­ning, said the re­port.

Ye Xingqing, head of the Agri­cul­tural Econ­omy De­part­ment of the De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­ter of the State Coun­cil, said new im­pe­tus for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment de­pends on govern­ment pol­icy.

Scal­ing up agri­cul­tural oper­a­tions has been made pos­si­ble by the de­par­ture of many farm­ers to ur­ban ar­eas, how­ever, many of those re­main­ing are ei­ther too old or not knowl­edge­able enough, said Ye, adding that the govern­ment needs to draft pref­er­en­tial poli­cies to keep well-ed­u­cated young farm­ers in agri­cul­ture.

Growth rate of per capita dis­pos­able in­come for China’s ru­ral res­i­dents in 2016, down by three per­cent­age points from 2014

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