On 11 February 2022, the State Council released the Five-Year Plan on Promotion of Agricultural and Rural Modernization. The 47-page document lists in 10 chapters a very extensive and detailed catalogue of measures to advance the modernization of the agricultural sector and rural development over the next five years.
In the introduction, the text lists the achievements of the 13th Five-Year Plan, which is particularly celebrated as the decisive fight against poverty. In the years 2016-2020, 832 counties and a total of 128,000 villages were led out of extreme poverty. In an unusually open manner, the introduction also identifies the challenges ahead.
“The agricultural base remains weak. The area of degraded farmland is large, the ability of breeding science and technology innovation is insufficient, the ability to resist risks is weak. The rigid constraints of resources and environment are tightening, and the agricultural non-point source pollution is still prominent. The task of transforming agricultural development is arduous […]. There are shortcomings in rural development[…], disaster prevention and mitigation systems such as flood prevention systems and drought control are not perfect[…]. The income gap between urban and rural residents is still large[…], there are many factors restricting employment of farmers, the aging of rural population is accelerating […]. The task of consolidating and expanding the achievements in poverty alleviation is relatively arduous. The industrial foundation in poverty-alleviated areas is still not strong […]. The foundation for poverty alleviation in some poverty-alleviated households is still relatively fragile and the task of preventing them from returning to poverty is relatively heavy.” (14th Five-Year plan, p.2-3).
The introduction also highlights the challenge of providing adequate nutrition to the world’s largest population based on limited water and soil resources. At the same time, the text also points out that for the foreseeable future the Chinese agricultural sector will remain mainly in the hands of smallholders and that the success of modernizing the sector will depend on whether it is possible to make small farmers introducing new technologies. With regard to the most important strategic objectives, the plan focuses on food security and improving the living conditions in rural areas. Measurable indicators have been developed for key modernization objectives, out of which some are presented in the following table:
In the following 8 chapters, the corresponding measures to achieve the indicators are listed in detail. Many of these measures are also known from previous strategy papers and previous No. 1 documents. Chapter 2 focuses on food security and self-sufficiency in production of basic food items. In order to ensure the production targets for food cereals in the long term, the paper stresses the importance to maintain and improve the quality of arable soils. The focus here lies on black soil in northeastern China, for which conservation tillage and measures to improve humus building are required and on rehabilitating southern China’s most acidified soils and northern salinized soils.
With a stable production capacity of 55 million tons per year the supply of pork meat, one of China’s strategically important foodstuffs, is expected to return to the pre-ASF crisis level. Grain cultivation continues to rely on functional cultivation zones, with the northeast, the Yangzi River Basin and the coastal regions in the southeast as zones for rice cultivation, the North China Plain and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangzi for wheat cultivation, as well as northeast China, the North China Plain and Shaanxi for corn cultivation. In the North China Plain an expansion of soy cultivation capacities is planned. Cotton production will remain concentrated in Xinjiang.
To promote the integration of science, technology and agribusiness, the establishment of a National Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Alliance is announced. Research activities will focus in particular on the seed sector and animal genetics. The so-called Nanfan Silicon Valley in Hainan, a cluster of research institutes and industries specialised in biotechnology breeding, will be further expanded. Furthermore, a strengthening of the domestic competitive agricultural machinery industry is envisioned. In particular, the development of smaller agricultural machinery shall be stimulated. Demonstration projects for agricultural mechanization are to be set up in 300 counties. In order to promote industrialisation in rural regions, the establishment of modern agricultural industrial parks and agricultural modernisation zones is planned. These industrial developments are also intended to create incentives for migrant workers and educated younger people to resettle in their home counties. At the same time, measures to improve the infrastructure and sanitation in the villages will be promoted continuously, including connecting villages to sewage systems and garbage collection. Efforts will also be made to improve education and training opportunities in rural areas, especially with regards to agricultural vocational training. In addition, health care in rural regions shall be improved.
One chapter is devoted to the improvement of the environmental quality in rural areas. The focus here lies on the control of agricultural non-point pollution. The plan in particular aims for a reduced and more efficient use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The use of antibacterial drugs in animal husbandry shall also to be reduced and stricter controls for animal feed additives are to be carried out. Agricultural waste, including animal manure and straw shall be recycled. Furthermore, the use of degradable agricultural films is recommended, and the controlled disposal of pesticide and fertilizer packaging is introduced. It is planned to carry out additional surveys on soil contamination and to establish a classification system for soil quality. A long overdue price reform for water use in agriculture is proposed in order to create incentives for more efficient water use. For arable land the introduction of rotational cropping and fallow cultivation is recommended as well as the creation of ecological corridors.
In the last chapter, the plan also deals with agricultural projects in the international context. In particular, the setup of cooperation projects in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative are mentioned. Furthermore, the establishment of a demonstration park for agricultural technology exchange and training for member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is planned.