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Farmers cut grain cultivation as prices plunge

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-03-23 10:32



Farmers cut grain cultivation as prices plunge

A farmer ties wheat that has been harvested in Shibapan village in Luoyang city, Henan province, June 3, 2015. [Photo/IC]

JINAN - Plunging prices and changing tastes mean Chinese grain farmers are having to think carefully about what they plant this year.

"No more corn, that's for sure. It doesn't make money. And wheat is risky as it depends on purchases at set prices by local authorities," said Wang Cuifen, who farms 200 hectares in Shandong province.

Wang has reduced her wheat crops by 27 hectares this year.

The provincial agriculture department estimates that farmers in Shandong have planted 8,333 hectares fewer hectares with wheat this year, in the first such reduction in eight years.

Agriculture is vital to feeding the 1.4 billion people in China, the world's largest grain producer and consumer.

In North China, wheat is the main grain for spring planting. It is due to be harvested in June, when farmers usually plant corn for an autumn harvest.

China's total grain output increased 2.4 percent year on year to 621 million tons in 2015, the 12th consecutive year of growth.

Despite that, China had a shortfall of between 20 million and 25 million tons in the amount of grain it produced and consumed in 2015, as Chinese developed a taste for more diverse grain choices.

Food imports reached a record 120 million tons last year, with soybean accounting for over 70 percent of the total. Imports of corn increased 80 percent year on year and rice 30 percent.

State granaries' large inventories and competition from imports have depressed grain prices in China, making life difficult for farmers.

With corn purchase season a month away, state inventories in northeast China's corn production bases already stand at 8.8 million tons.

Wang Cuifen said farmers would certainly cut corn production, and that they're desperate for corn strains with better quality and productivity to cater to new demand.

Farmer Zhang Baohua in Zhangqiu, Shandong, still has 90,000 kg of corn piled in his yard. It was harvested last year, when he balked at selling it at the prices offered at the time.

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