BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhua) -- China must retain at least 1.865 billion mu (124.33 million hectares) of farmland in 2020, under a new target set by the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR).
The figure is down from the 2 billion mu registered at the end of 2015, but still above a government red line of 1.8 billion mu.
The ministry vowed in a new plan that China will be strict in protecting farmland and using land economically.
Farmers account for about half of China's population and food security is still a major issue.
The country has a shortfall of 9.9 million tonnes in the amount of grain it produces and consumes annually despite its total grain output having increased for 12 years in a row, the head of the State Administration of Grain said in April.
In 2015, around 4.5 million mu of arable land was lost to construction, disasters, environmental protection measures and agricultural restructuring, while 3.5 million mu of new farmland was created, MLR data showed in April.