Scaling up agriculture? The dynamics of land transfer in inland China

Rogers, Sarah, Wilsem, Brooke, Han, Xiao, Wang, Zoe Ju-Han, Duan, Yuefang, He, Jun, Li, Jie, Lin, Wanlong, and Wong, Christine (2021) Scaling up agriculture? The dynamics of land transfer in inland China. World Development, 146. 105563.

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Major changes are taking place in the Chinese countryside. Long a smallholder dominant economy with small and fragmented farms, a suite of policies, regulations, and financial instruments are being mobilised to drive larger-scale, more commercialised, and more industrialised farming in China. Larger operators such as “dragon-head” agribusinesses are transforming production and supply chains, while the operational rights and titles over farmland are being formalised so that smallholders can more easily transfer their land to large-scale producers. This article aims to deepen our understanding of the extent and nature of land transfer in China by exploring its dynamics in inland provinces. It draws on a 2019 survey of more than 900 cash-cropping farms in four provinces (Hebei, Shaanxi, Hubei and Yunnan), semi-structured interviews, and secondary data. Our mixed methods approach supports in-depth analysis of the extent and dynamics of land transfer in apple, tea, orange and coffee-growing areas. We find that in contrast to national statistics, land transfer from smallholders to other operators is generally quite limited, a finding which highlights the ongoing viability of specialised smallholder farming and other site-specific barriers to scaling up. In the site where land transfer is most extensive, it is being driven by a state-agribusiness-cooperative alliance rather than through a newly emerged rural land market. We also find that the nature of leasing out farmland is markedly different to leasing in farmland. Where it occurs, the leasing out of land tends to be organised and formalised, and is tied to state developmentalist goals, particularly poverty alleviation. The leasing in of land is more widespread and occurs on an informal basis. Our analysis highlights key conditions that determine uneven land transfer and confirms that local political-economic dynamics complicate the realisation of central government directives on the ground.

Item ID: 68573
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-5991
Keywords: Agrarian change, Land market, Political economy,Smallholders, Agricultural policy
Copyright Information: (C) 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP180100519
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2021 03:05
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4404 Development studies > 440404 Political economy and social change @ 100%
SEO Codes: 23 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 2302 Government and politics > 230299 Government and politics not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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