From Justin Mahlahla in BEIJING, China
China has hailed Zimbabweâ€™s 99-year lease system saying it gives farmers security of tenure which will motivate investment and promote the development of critical production infrastructure on the land.
Addressing a team of journalists from Zimbabwe in Beijing yesterday, leader of the Development Research Centre of the State Council, Professor Sun Qiming said land is the lifeline for farmers and without it they would be useless.
â€œThe Zimbabwean governmentâ€™s decision to give farmers the leases was very wise. It will promote highÂ Â production of staple as well as cash crops that are crucial in making the economy of any country vibrant.
â€œWhen the Chinese Communist Party waged its liberation war, it promised people land at independence. After independence people were given land.
â€œProduction, however hit an all time low between 1949 and 1979 as most of the farmers struggled to finance their operations and most importantly, did not commit themselves to farming seriously because they did not feel secure,â€ he said.
Professor Sun drew parallels between Chinaâ€™s land reform programme and Zimbabweâ€™s, saying although the people had reclaimed land, it still remained critical to give them the incentive to produce through guaranteed security of tenure.
He added that China could not rely on food imports from other countries as it had the largest population globally, hence the need to boost agricultural productivity.
â€œIf we were to rely on imports, it would mean that grain prices would soar drastically across the globe and the effect would not be good on the economy.
â€œWe realised that since we had the most important productive means- the land, we needed to give farmers confidence to produce effectively especially after nationalising the land after independence.
â€œThis saw us going on another land re-distribution exercise in 1975 that saw farmers getting 15-year leases that were later revised to 30 years and then the current 70 years.
â€œFrom that point onwards production started rising and today we have reached 500 million tonnes of grain per year,â€ said Prof Sun.
He said in 1985, China further re-distributed land giving farmers contracts to produce for the state and get their payments but still remain with enough to meet their domestic requirements.
â€œThe retained what he wanted and sold the surplus that naturally went to the cities. This also saw industry getting raw materials and with this, came employment opportunities even for the young people who had left the rural areas for the towns,â€ he said.
The land reform, he said, was meant to create a socialist state in which every farmer would be able to generate enough revenue to build decent houses or even flats in the countryside and leave the huts in which they were leaving.
China currently produces 22% of the worldâ€™s food requirements on land that is 7% of the worldâ€™s total and plans to increase production by 45% in the future.
Prof Sun however said farmers needed to be mechanised to achieve competitive yields.
He said Zimbabwe had vast opportunities of increasing agricultural productivity once the majority of the farmers got mechanised.
â€œZimbabwe has very fertile land and reliable water supplies that if fully exploited can see it turning the fortunes of its economy in a few years.
The development of the agricultural sector is critical for all countries engaged in re-structuring their economies,â€ he said.
He added that the challenges Zimbabwe was facing at the moment were not going to last forever as its economy had already begun to show signs of recovery with agriculture also playing a crucial role.
â€œFarmers in China at first failed to access mechanised implements even though government had subsidised the prices, so I urge the Zimbabwean government to come with a policy that allows the farmers easy access to mechanised implements while developing a policy that protects their individual property rights as farmers,â€ he said.