A senior Chinese official has assured the public of sufficient food supplies
amid rising concerns over the potential impact of developing biofuel from
Zhu Zhigang, vice-minister of finance, said on Saturday that biofuel and
biochemistry must only be developed on the basis of guaranteeing China's food
He made the comments as grain prices have risen particularly for corn the
main raw material for ethanol a crude oil substitute and an environment-friendly
Ethanol has been the main biofuel produced in China with output hitting 1.02
million tons last year -- and corn accounting for 76 per cent of the raw
material. The others are wheat and sorghum.
Zhai Huqu, president of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, earlier
said China cannot afford using grain for developing energy.
"We can do research on using corn and other grains as an energy substitute
but it cannot be industrialized," Zhai was quoted as saying by Xinhua News
"It will be a disaster for us if we depend on a huge amount of corn and other
grains for energy."
Zhu also stressed that grain is crucially important to China, since the
country's arable land is insufficient for a population of 1.3 billion.
Only when the supply of grain exceeds demand, then part of it should be
processed into biofuel.
Such a move balances supply and demand, and protects a farmer's enthusiasm
for crop growing, he said.
"China will carefully evaluate the grain consumption of the biofuel project
and its influence on the food chain," Zhu was quoted as saying by China News
"The government will impose strict controls on any biofuel project using
grain as the raw material."
The senior official said the government will encourage the use of non-grain
agricultural and forestry plants for developing biofuel.
For biofuel projects that use agricultural plants and wastes, the government
will require them to build a raw material production base, which must use
uncultivated land instead of arable land.
The potential resources are abundant. Official statistics showed that China
has nearly 2 billion mu (133 million hectares) of wasteland that is suitable for
growing agricultural and forestry products.
China also produces 600 million tons of farming and forestry wastes such as
(China Daily 12/12/2006 page2)