Grain production climbing toward record

Updated: 2013-03-10 08:01

By Lu Chang (China Daily)

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China's grain output is likely to hit a record high this year and bring a 10th consecutive year of growth, as the nation steps up efforts to boost agricultural technology and infrastructure, a senior official said.

"There is no pressure at all to achieve that goal," said Niu Dun, vice-minister of agriculture and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee. "That confidence comes from the innovation of three main food staples - rice, wheat and corn."

"The use of one of the three improved quality staple crops can increase the yield by at least 20 percent per unit," he said.

Niu's remarks came after Premier Wen Jiabao's Government Work Report to the National People's Congress on Tuesday, in which he called for giving high priority to grain production, developing high-yield farmland, and agricultural production.

"China's population will rise to 1.6 billion by 2035," Niu said. "If per capita grain consumption in China were to equal the current level of 400 kg per year, China would need nearly 650 million metric tons of grain by that time."

He said that if China were able to buy all the grain from the global trade market, it would nearly meet the gap between the rising demand and the current grain supply.

China's grain output rose 3.2 percent to 589 million tons in 2012, rising for the ninth consecutive year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Against the backdrop of the global food crisis, China's grain "miracle" further contributes to global food security.

"It is not a problem of whether we can feed ourselves, but rather a foundation of social stability, China's deepening reform and global food security," Niu said.

Experts forecast that China's annual grain output will rise by 50 million tons in the next decade, but the strong surge in grain imports has also triggered widespread concern about the country's long-asserted goal of meeting 95 percent of demand with domestic supplies.

"China has the potential to raise its per-unit grain yield," said Huo Xuexi, dean of school of the economic and management at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University.

"But a decline in arable land, both in quantity and quality, the rapid outflow of rural labor, and severe environmental pollution present China with a very difficult task."

Huo, who is also a member of CPPCC National Committee, said China's annual grain imports are likely to reach 100 million tons in a few years and, at that time, the nation will rely more on the global market especially for soybean imports.

"China ramped up its imports of grain in recent years amid rising domestic demand for grain for fodder and industrial use," said Ren Zhengxiao, chief of the State Administration of Grain. "But there is no shortage of grain in China."

During a CPPCC group discussion on grain security, the problem of food waste was also brought up. Members suggested reducing grain waste in transport, consumption and storage.

Food valued at 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) is thrown away during consumption annually in China. The volume is equivalent to the amount consumed by more than 200 million people every year.

lvchang@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 03/10/2013 page3)