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China tries to ensure long-term good grain output
Updated: 2004-09-23 14:12

While preparing for a good autumn harvest this year, China is trying to consider new measures to ensure a long-term increase in grain output.

In September, the Ministry of Agriculture held two meetings, one in Hohhot of North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the other in Zhengzhou of central China's Henan Province, a granary of the country.

Both meetings aimed to arrange grain production and call for new measures to stimulate farmers' enthusiasm in grain growing and make sure the planting areas of grain to increase.

"China's grain production is now at a turning point to resuming the rapid development," said Du Qinglin, minister of agriculture at the Zhengzhou meeting, "and next year is a key period for extending this year's good harvest."

At the meeting, the ministry set a plan for this year's autumn and winter planting, aiming to plant 700,000 hectares more of wheat than last year's figure, which might bring four percent of output increase for next year's summer harvest.

In addition to increasing grain planting areas, the country also plans to tap the potential of farmland by improving irrigation facilities and adopting advanced technologies.

Statistics from the ministry show that in 2003 in 13 major grain producing provinces, the highest per ha yield was 5,250 kilograms and the lowest was only 2,850 kilograms.

Taking the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as an example. The region plants 4.3 million ha of grain every year, but the average per ha yield is only 3,600 kilograms because of water scarcity.

"If we invest more in irrigation facilities to improve per ha yield, we have great potential in output increase," said Lei Erdeni, vice-chairman of the regional government.

Information from the Ministry of Water Resources shows that the country will launch a large-scale project to improve irrigation facilities in 155 key irrigation zones in 13 major grain production provinces in the next four years. The country will also construct nine large irrigation zones in the next five years.

Also, China plans to invest in 30 billion yuan (3.75 billion US dollars) in building a batch of high-quality grain production bases.

China produced 431 million tons of grain in 2003, a decrease of 5.8 percent from 2002. Till then, the amount of grain produced had been declining for four consecutive years. The continuous output decrease caused grain price increases and worries from domestic and abroad on China's food security.

"China's only way to ensure grain security is to rely on itself, " said Zheng Xinli, deputy director of the Policy Research Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Since late last year, China has adopted a series of supportive policies, including a stricter protection of arable land, direct subsidies for grain growers, tax cuts and exemptions and reform of the grain distribution system, to promote the grain production. The central government alone earmarked 20.5 billion yuan (US$2.47 billion) to support the taxation system reform in rural areas.

Stimulated by these supportive policies, Chinese farmers exhibited great enthusiasm for planting grain crops this year. China's summer grain and early rice harvests reached 101.05 billion kilograms and 33.5 billion kilograms this year, up by 4.8 percent and 14 percent from last year.

Zheng predicted that if no severe natural disaster occurs this fall, China will be able to reach its goal of 455 billion kilograms.

Agricultural experts also made other suggestions to ensure grain security. Ren Jizhou, an academician of engineering, suggested Chinese farmers raise livestock that grazes on naturally growing grasslands, rather than livestock that consumes grains grown by humans.

"The switch would help solve China's current food shortage, which is exasperated by animals consuming grains that could be used by humans otherwise," said Ren.

Ren said that with the improvement of living standards, China's food demand has changed from traditional patterns. The demand of grain decreased while the demand of animal products has increased.

In the past years, per capita grain consumption in rural areas stood at 233 kg every year, but the figure in urban areas had decreased to 78 kg in 2002 from 160 kg in 1978. With the decrease of grain consumption, the consumption of meat, milk and egg has increased by a large percent.

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