The central government Tuesday instructed 36 major cities to each maintain a minimum 10-day reserve of food and cooking oil supplies, as part of its measures to ensure market stability during the current period of rising food prices.
A notice jointly issued by five ministries led by the country's top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, said the move was necessary to ensure a "ready" emergency production and distribution system.
The cities include Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Local governments were also asked to designate companies to ensure the sound production and distribution of food and cooking oil.
"Local governments should also inspect those companies regularly to ensure the quantity and quality of their reserves," the notice said.
Warning of major increases in the prices of corn, wheat and cooking oil, yesterday's notice came with an announcement from the National Bureau of Statistics that the country's key inflation indicator, the consumer price index (CPI), surged to an 11-year high of 6.9 percent last month, of which 5.4 percentage points were a result of food price hikes.
Grain prices last month rose 6.6 percent over the same period last year, while cooking oil prices increased 35 percent.
Pork prices, which have been blamed for the recent increase in the CPI, soared by 56 percent.
Nine straight months of consumer price hikes, fueled by the rising cost of food, have taken their toll on the public.
Beijing resident Gao Ning said that since the summer, her family's monthly food bill had risen by 200 yuan ($27).
"With the major festivals drawing near, I hope there will be enough food on the market. Otherwise, the New Year holiday will be the most expensive yet for my family," she said.
In an effort to minimize the impact of rising food prices, the ministries also told local governments to closely monitor the needs of the poor and students.
People in disaster areas and those relocated because of major reservoir projects should also be given special consideration, they said.
In addition to yesterday's notice, the central government earlier launched a crackdown on the possible hoarding of food by suppliers during the current period of soaring prices.