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China says farmers need more options in managing their land rights

A Chinese farmer uses a tractor in their farm as China's Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu visits the area for the Sudan-China Agriculture Cooperation Development Forum in Khartoum, Sudan September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities on Sunday recommended separating various rights to rural land, which they say would better protect property rights, improve land circulation, increase farmers’ incomes, and contribute to the development of modern agriculture.

China has been looking to reform landholding rights for rural citizens for years as it promotes urbanisation and more efficient, large-scale farms.

Farmers in China hold the long-term rights to small plots of land, but technically can lose the right to that land if they move away or do not actively cultivate the land.

Many have been informally leasing the rights to the land, though a lack of clear rules governing land rights has hampered the development of a healthy market for farmland.

The recommendations, from the State Council and the Communist Party’s general office and carried by state media agency Xinhua on Sunday, calls for the separation of land-use rights, contract rights, and operating rights, which would let farmers keep the rights to the land while leasing the land out to others to operate.

China must complete a registry of rural land ownership, and improve supervision and risk-prevention measures for commercial leasing of rural land, the announcement said.

Reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Alison Williams