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Grain self-sufficiency pledged

Updated: 2013-12-25 07:10
By Jin Zhu ( China Daily)

China intends to maintain 120m hectares of arable land for food security

China will continue to count on itself for future food security, though it will moderately increase grain imports, according to an annual rural conference.

Domestic producers should be the country's major food suppliers and the government should improve domestic production capacity with technological support and make good use of imported grains, participants said at a two-day Central Rural Work Conference that closed on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the country pledged to maintain a "red line" for the minimum total area of arable land at 120 million hectares to ensure adequate grain production, the conference said.

 Grain self-sufficiency pledged

A farmer in Xiguanzhuang, a village in Ganyu, Jiangsu province, spreads rice out to dry in October. Si Wei / for China Daily

Despite rising imports, the delegates agreed at the conference that China should rely on itself for its population's grain supply.

"The bowls of the Chinese people should be firmly in our own hands at all times ... and mainly filled with food we produce ourselves," the conference pointed out.

The government vowed to renew efforts to assist farming and promote the well-being of farmers as poor rural development remains a weakness harming the country's goal of becoming a moderately well-off society, conference participants said.

Guaranteed grain security was also listed at the Central Economic Work Conference that concluded earlier this month, as one of six key tasks for the nation's economy in 2014.

The country's grain output reached 601.94 million metric tons in 2013, a record high and the 10th consecutive year of increased grain harvests, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

It is predicted that partly because of its rising population, China's grain demand will exceed 720 million tons by 2020. A gap between domestic supply and demand for major agricultural products is widening, China Central Television reported.

For example, to satisfy domestic demand, the country imported 5.21 million tons of corn in 2012, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Center.

At present, the country's total corn output is more than 200 million tons annually, 70 percent of which is for livestock feed or industrial use, said Huang Dafang, a researcher with the Biotechnology Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Corn yield in China is about 5.67 metric tons per hectare, or 60 percent of the average in the US.

"It is foreseeable that China may face a shortage of corn if the country fails to take effective measures," Huang said.

Such measures, including the improvement of production facilities and breeding techniques, will be vital to increase corn yields, he added.

"In terms of grain production, the nation must maintain a self-sufficiency rate of 95 percent, including corn, rice and wheat. For rice and wheat, the self-sufficiency rate should be even higher, such as remaining at 97 percent or 98 percent, to ensure absolute safety of the domestic food supply," Chen Xiwen, director of the office for the Communist Party of China Central Committee's Leading Group on Rural Work, told CCTV on Monday.

"The current domestic grain price is higher than the international market price, which indicates the price disparity and surging grain imports were caused by rising labor costs and excessive use of chemical fertilizers," said Zheng Fengtian, a professor at the school of agricultural economics and rural development at Renmin University of China.

"Under such circumstances, the Chinese government should adequately increase the import amount of non-staple grains and related products such as soybeans, feed, meat, edible oils, and processed grain products, which could free more land and save resources for China to concentrate on growing rice, wheat and corn," Zheng said.

The government should also launch timely risk evaluations of possible shortages of grain in the future. For instance, there is no prediction data on possible corn shortages, Huang said.

Zhong Nan contributed to this story.

(China Daily 12/25/2013 page5)