China may soon not be able to feed itself, warns Wen Jiabao
The amount of arable land is declining as industry gobbles up fields or pollution kills them. According to the government the country may soon not be able to feed itself; experts warn that despite official figures the negative threshold may have already been crossed.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The continued reduction in the amount of arable land around the country is approaching the danger point at which China will not be able to feed itself, the Ministry of Land and Resources warned in a national land use survey released last week.

The mainland's net loss of arable land last year to October amounted to 6,767 sq km, of which more than a third was used for construction and 55 per cent was destroyed by natural disaster and ecological deterioration. Although reclamations and demolitions had meant about 3,685 sq km was returned to cultivation that left a net loss of 3,082 sq km.

Premier Wen Jiabao warned last month that if arable should fall under 1,206,000 sq km the country would not be able to feed itself. At present, there are 1,226,000 sq km of land suitable for crops.

According to the ministry, the number of illegal land-grab cases on the mainland rose 17.3 per cent last year to 131,000, with 3,593 people punished.

The authorities have taken a series of measures this year to try to curb the rampant expropriation of arable land by local governments, including bans on the construction of villas, golf courses and race tracks.

However, experts warn though that the country is likely already under the minimum required given the fact that large tracts of land and waterways classified as agricultural are very polluted and crops harvested there end up destroyed because they are dangerous to human health.