China, the world's largest grain consumer, saw its grain imports jump twofold during the January-to-November period compared with a year earlier.
This has triggered widespread concern about the country's long-asserted goal of maintaining its food security by domestically producing 95 percent of the rice, corn and wheat it consumes.
Shoppers purchase discount rice at a supermarket in Chongqing. Grain imports surged this year because of price differences in the domestic and relatively cheaper international markets. [Yu You / For China Daily]
But analysts said there is no shortage of the staple crops in China, and so much was imported mostly because of big price differences in the domestic and relatively cheaper international markets.
Analysts also called for the government to let the minimum purchase prices of domestic crops fall, bringing them more in line with international prices.
During the first 11 months of this year, China's grain imports were a whopping 13.4 million metric tons, compared with 4.5 million tons in the same period last year, the latest industry data showed.
Given the country's usual huge imports of soybeans and barley, analysts said the increased imports of these two crops are "within expectations".
Yet some market observers are still worried about the strong increases of imports seen in rice and wheat.
Rice imports in the first 10 months of this year hit a historic high of 1.98 million metric tons, compared with 505,000 tons in the same period last year, according to the General Administration of Customs.
The US Department of Agriculture estimated China's rice imports this year will surge by four and a half times from a year earlier to 26 million tons. This amount would make China the world's second-largest importer of the crop, behind only Nigeria.
China's rice imports hovered around 450,000 tons per year over the past five years, of which high-end fragrant varieties accounted for the largest proportion. But this year's imports, in contrast, were mainly composed of cheaper cracked rice from Vietnam and Pakistan.