Business / Industries

Sustainability concerns behind China's bumper harvest

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-07-19 14:20

BEIJING - China reaped a record harvest this summer, but experts are nevertheless worried about growing water scarcity and soil degradation behind the agricultural success.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced earlier this week that the country's yields of summer grain crops, mainly wheat, grew 3.6 percent from last year to 136.6 million tons in 2014.

It is the 11th consecutive year of grain output increases, largely thanks to favorable weather conditions that resulted in a higher per-unit yield of wheat, said NBS senior analyst Huang Jiacai.

However, the feat cannot hide shortcomings in farming, including overuse of water, chemical fertilizer and excessive reclamation, in large parts of rural China, said Li Guoxiang, a rural development researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The major areas producing summer crops, which account for about 20 percent of the country's annual grain output, are located in North and Northwest China. These vast arid lands are plagued by over-pumping of underground water due to drought, Li said.

As the country is struggling to feed its 1.3 billion people, with a grain self-sufficiency rate of 97 percent in 2013, its chase for ever-higher production goals may worsen the resource shortage and environmental problems, he warned.

His concerns were backed up by Xinhua reporters' investigations in the provinces of Shandong, Heilongjiang, Shaanxi and Gansu.

This summer, Liu Qibiao in Shandong's Shanxian county reaped an additional 200 kg of wheat from his 0.66-acre farm compared with last summer, but did not earn more money.

To have a better harvest, Liu used two more bags of chemical fertilizer than usual and watered the plants more to ride out a mild drought in March, only to find that the output increase was offset by extra costs. "I worked harder, but wasn't well-rewarded," he lamented.

Sustainability concerns behind China's bumper harvest
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