Summer wheat harvest is still growing strong

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-05 08:25
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BEIJING - China will have a summer wheat harvest despite the severe drought that has affected its major wheat-growing areas in recent months, the country's top agriculture official told China Daily on Friday.

It's the first time that a top official has made a positive assessment of the grain output for 2011.

World food watchdogs and grain market analysts at home and abroad have been forecasting a reduced grain harvest in China this year.

But according to Chen Xiwen, director of the office for the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee's Leading Group on Rural Work, the winter drought has destroyed very little wheat, as it occurred at a time when the crops were in hibernation and the recent rainfalls and irrigation efforts have helped farmers maintain their wheat yields this year.

However, Chen remained cautious about forecasting the total grain output for 2011, as the summer harvest only accounts for a quarter of the annual grain production.

"The major goal is to keep a stable grain output, without radical ups and downs," said Chen.

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However, he warned that grain prices might rise this year due to the rise in production costs caused by the expense of drought relief efforts, said Chen.

The drought, the worst in six decades, has left a swathe of grain-producing regions struggling to overcome the lack of any significant rainfall for more than three months.

In response, the State Council announced last month that the central government will spend at least 6.7 billion yuan ($1 billion) on drought relief measures, including offering subsidies to farmers for irrigation.

Chen made the remarks during an interview with China Daily on the sidelines of the ongoing annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

Nie Zhenbang, director of State Administration of Grain, told China Daily on Friday that China has enough grain reserves to prevent any crisis and that it adheres to a self-sufficient grain policy.

"In addition to self sufficiency, China has managed to export 4.21 million tons of grain during the past five years," said Nie.

However, in a previous media report, Chen said it's uncertain whether China will be able to maintain a sustainable increase in output in the future, as the country's grain production capacity is more concentrated in northern areas, where there is a severe water shortage.

Chen said that local governments and farmers should set up proper warning and handling systems for extreme weather events. For instance, drawing lessons from the droughts in recent years, the government is putting unprecedented effort into updating its farmland irrigation capability, as only half of its 121.7 million hectares of farmland currently have mechanized irrigation.

This year, the No 1 document focused on water conservation for the first time. Chen said the country will invest 4 trillion yuan during the next decade to improve water conservation.

Ding Qingfen contributed to this story.

China Daily