China / Government

Officials fast to promote grain conservation

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-10-16 20:03

BEIJING - Chinese grain officials on Tuesday joined an "experience 24-hours of hunger" campaign to promote public awareness of food security and to curb grain waste.

The campaign was initiated by the country's State Administration of Grain (SAG), which called on staff members of local grain administration agencies across China to voluntarily fast to mark the World Food Day, which falls on Tuesday.

Shu Gang, director of the Chengdu City Grain Administration in southwest China's Sichuan Province, said he hoped the activity could correct many citizens' misconceptions that China is not short on grains.

Shu participated in the 24-hour fast, and said that everyone in good health should participate in the event to realize the value of grains.

The SAG also said the fasting experience was aimed at reminding citizens not to forget about grain conservation during years of good harvests.

In Jinan, capital of the eastern province of Shandong, one of the country's major grain-producing regions, the SAG, the Shandong provincial government and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have jointly organized special activities to mark World Food Day.

More than 300 local students, workers, farmers and officials will have a candlelight vigil to pray for undernourished people worldwide.

Official data show that China's grain output grew 4.5 percent last year to 5.7 billion tonnes, marking the eighth year of growth.

Agricultural experts have forecast that output is likely to rise further in 2012.

However, analysts estimate that about 85 million tonnes of grain are wasted in China during consumption and storage. Also, about 10 percent of food is wasted daily at family dinner tables.

Xiong Wudong, another official with the Chengdu City Grain Administration, said that fasting on Tuesday made him understand the adage, "A man who is full does not know how hungry a starved man is."

"I really regret having squandered grains before. For example, I did not take home leftovers from meals I had in restaurants," he said.

Xiong said that from now on he will strictly follow the campaign's theme in his daily life, and he will tell his son to do the same.

The Chinese government has been attaching great importance to food security in the country that has a population of 1.3 billion to feed. Although more farmers and urban families are living relatively well-off lives following over three decades of relatively fast economic development, a small portion of the nation's population in rural or mountainous areas still live in poverty and do not have enough to eat.

Around 900 million people around the world face chronic hunger, and 70 percent of them live in rural areas.

Many young Chinese can clearly recall lessons on not wasting grain imparted by their parents who lived through hard and lean times in the early 1960s.

Xian Yuling, a publicity official at Beijing Language and Culture University, said her parents told her not to leave even a single grain of rice on her plate during meals when she was a child, a time when there was a shortage of goods. If she wasted food, she would face some physical punishment.

"I often tell my four-year-old son not to waste grain," said Xian, now in her 30s.

Wang Zhengcai, 20, is from a remote mountainous village in Hechi City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and he said farmers around his hometown still do not have enough food to eat.

He said once he overturned a bowl of fried corn in his aunt's house. His aunt immediately asked him to collect each kernel of corn that was on the ground, and then she washed the kernels so they could be eaten.

"When you waste grains, please think about the eager eyes of hunger-hit children in mountainous areas," said Wang, a freshman at the Guangxi University for Nationalities.

"From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, I did not eat anything. But I am afraid I could not continue in the remaining hours due to my health condition," Xu Zhigan, an official of the Grain Administration of Guangxi, said on Tuesday.

Xu, who joined the 24-hour hunger campaign that lasts from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Wednesday, said he hoped more people could exercise grain prudence.

Zhang Bingde, a legal official with the Guangxi grain administration, said the strong demand for grains will increase alongside population growth. "Food security remains a severe challenge for China."

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