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Raising corn output is food for thought

By Huang Dafang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-07 07:37:41

Soybean imports have increased drastically in recent years to make up for the shortfall in domestic production and meet the ever-growing demand of the domestic market.

It is problems like these that the proposed national grain safety policy is expected to solve. Based on self-reliant grain production and moderate imports, the policy was outlined at the Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December, an annual tone-setter for next year's economic development, and the Central Rural Work Conference in late December.

China has always been committed to ensuring basic grain self-sufficiency by using domestic resources. But going by the policy, the country needs to become self-sufficient in corn, together with rice and wheat, and prevent the domestic corn market from going the soybean way. And increasing production remains the best way of becoming self-sufficient in corn.

Though gradual, China's corn production has been rising in recent years, reaching a record 200 million tons in 2012. But corn imports have also kept rising because of the inflexible demand for feed and its use to make biofuel. Such a tendency cannot be checked without making concerted efforts.

China does not have authoritative data on how big a gap its domestic corn supply faces. Corn production has seen a gradual increase in recent years, but that has been achieved mainly by squeezing the cultivation area of other crops and not by raising per-unit yield of corn. Since it is not possible for China to continuously expand its corn growing area, the country has to boost its per-unit corn output if it wants to fill or narrow the corn supplying gap and become self-sufficient in the crop. The lack of progress will hamper the country's efforts to ensure grain security and prevent the domestic corn market from suffering the fate of the soybean.

The Central Economic Work Conference emphasized the use of science and technology for grain security. China's corn yield is about 380 kilograms per mu (666 square meters), only 60 percent that of the United States. A lower output, however, means room for improvement. A series of methods can be used to boost per-unit corn yield, including improving the infrastructure and farming procedures, and choosing good strains of seeds, better soil and fertilizer management.

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