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China's grain production ends a 5-year slide
Updated: 2004-11-01 00:35

China's 900 million farmers are welcoming a long awaited bumper crop as the autumn grain harvest, which accounts for 70 percent of China's total annual grain output, is coming to a end.

Though the final figure will soon be released by the National Bureau of Statistics, China's high ranking officials have repeated on various occasions that China is sure to see a good grain harvest this year. Experts forecast that the output will "increase over last year's figure by a large margin" and will surpass the plan set at the beginning of this year.

China set this year's grain yield at 455 billion kilograms. It produced 430 billion kilograms of grain last year.

The fulfillment of the target means that China has ended five years of decline in grain output, noted economists.

With less than one tenth of its land arable, China has been able to feed 22 percent of world's population.

But since 1998, with the transitory food surplus and piled storage, Chinese farmers are reluctant to grow grain. This has caused a rapid decrease in the area planted and downward trend of grain output in the past several years.

The grain output decrease led to price hike beginning October 2003. This, in turn, triggered worries about food security from across China and the world.

To change the situation, the central government issued the "No. 1 document" at the beginning of this year. This focuses on promoting grain production and increasing income for farmers.

In accordance with the spirit of the document, the government adopted a series of preferential policies on taxes, land use, and direct subsidies to encourage farmers to plant more grain crops.

From this year, Heilongjiang and Jilin, two major grain production bases bade farewell to the agricultural tax which had been continued for thousands of years. For other provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, the agricultural tax will be exempted in five years.

Besides, the government provided 300 yuan subsidies for per ha of grain field in 13 major grain production bases.

The policies rekindled farmers' enthusiasm for grain production. In earlier National Bureau of Statistics press release, the summer grain witnessed a 4 percent of increase over last year, stopping the four-year-long downward trend, while the early rice enjoyed a 13 percent of year-on-year increase, reverting the seven-year slide.

It has been very cold in late fall in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province. But Wang Hai, a farmer in Suileng county of the province, said he felt warm at heart. Wang harvested 25,000 kilograms rice this year, which could bring him a profit of 30,000 yuan.

"I plan to plant more rice next year, it's no problem," said Wang. Wang planted three hectares of rice this year.

Heilongjiang, the largest granary in China, yielded 31.3 billion kilograms of grain this year, up 25 percent over last year, setting a new record.

"This year's good harvest is the joint effect of good policies, good weather and good prices," said Shen Liguo, vice-governor of the province.

Welcoming good harvest, Chinese government and its think tank are remaining cool. Zheng Jingping, spokesman for China's National Bureau of Statistics, said that though China witnessed a good harvest, China still face a tight balance in grain supply and demand. The country must use storage and import to make up the gap.

"It will be a gradual process to improve grain production mechanism and China's grain production still relies heavily on weather," said Zheng, "this means China will face such a tight balance at least in the next few years."

China has increased grain imports this year. Custom statistics shows that in the first three quarters of this year, China imported 4.97 million tons of wheat, up 15 times over last year.

After autumn harvest, China is now arranging autumn planting and renovating its irrigation systems to prepare for next year's grain production. Latest statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture shows that the planting area of winter wheat, major grain crops to be harvested next summer, is expected to increase by 700,000 ha over last year. The total output is expected to increase by four percent.

 "This year's good harvest can be seen as a prologue, which will bring a brighter future for grain production in quality and quantity," said Wang Zhaobin, deputy director in charge of agricultural commission in Heilongjiang.

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