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China sets grain output for 2004 at 4.55 million tons
( 2003-12-04 11:36) (Xinhua)

China has set the country's grain output for year 2004 at 455 million tons, up from this year's 10- year low of an estimated 435 million tons.

Ma Kai, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, Thursday told China Daily that " it's difficult to achieve that goal, but we must take concrete steps."

He called for tough measures to protect arable land from being used for real estate developers and industrial development zones.

The central and provincial governments have only approved about 5,000 development zones nationwide, but in fact there are up to 10, 000 such zones in various sizes.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday reported a year-on-year surge in acreage under autumn and winter-sown farm crops, or up 540,000 ha to 41 million ha.

That includes 22.4 million ha for autumn and winter grain crops, down by 80,000 ha, 6.93 million ha for rape, one of China's major edible oil-bearing crops, up 286,000 ha.

Farmers' enthusiasm for grain production has been activated since prices for cereals, edible oil and cotton were increased in August, in the wake of hikes for vegetables, meat and other agricultural products.

To guarantee stable production, the central government ordered its major grain producers like Henan and Hubei provinces to set " protective prices" higher than the market rate to buy surplus grain.

The move was part of a package of measures aimed at raising farmers' income introduced by Premier Wen Jiabao at an executive meeting of the State Council on Wednesday.

The government has set a goal of increasing farmers' income by 5 per cent next year.

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