For the first time in two decades, China has banned cities from encroaching nearby farmlands, scaling down its massive urbanisation push to safeguard food security in the world's most populous nation.
The government will designate prime arable land near cities, believed to be prone to expropriation, as "permanent basic farmland" to safeguard food security.
The prime farmland in the outskirts of cities and towns and near traffic routes should be categorised as "permanent basic farmland" that can be only used for cultivation, the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) said in a joint statement.
It is believed that land in these areas is prone to be expropriated for other purposes, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
A total of 14 major Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, will first implement the policy, and the rest are asked to follow it by the end of 2016.
This is the first time in two decades that China began focussing on the prime farmland. The move came after the country's urban population for the first time exceeded in 2011 transforming the country from an agrarian country to that of an industralised nation.
The massive urbanisation has demolished hundreds of villages making the farm workers into industrial labour.
The urbanisation resulted in increasing the imports of basic food items like rice and corn in China.
"Much of the high-quality arable land around large and medium-sized cities has not yet been designated as permanent basic farmland. It is a pressing problem that the expansion of cities is encroaching on prime farmland," the statement said.
"During rapid urbanisation, high-yield farmland has been gradually 'eaten' by steel and cement," MLR minister Jiang Daming said, adding that the consequences could be grievous.