China suspends plan to convert farmland into forest

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BEIJING, Sep 12 (Reuters) China suspended a plan to convert 1.07 million hectare of farmland into forest to meet its pledge of reserving at least 120 million ha for farming to ensure the country's food supply.

In 2005 the government said it would plant trees on 1.3 million hectare of farmland from 2006 to 2010, but the rapid speed of farmland losses forced the plan to be suspended, Xinhua news agency said yesterday, citing a State Council statement released on Monday.

The report comes after China reported yesterday that a 18.2 per cent leap in the cost of food propelled the country's annual consumer price inflation to 6.5 per cent in August, the fastest pace in nearly 11 years.

A senior party researcher warned on Monday that inflation becomes difficult to control once it exceeds 5 per cent, while a local paper said Beijing had told schools and colleges in the capital not to raise canteen food prices as inflation climbs.

The government will continue to provide subsidies to farmers who have converted their farmland into forest to compensate their loss of income, the agency said.

Currently China has 122.07 million hectare of farmland, very close to the 120 million hectare it deems necessary to ensure the country's food supply, said Xinhua.

REUTERS ARB KP0900

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