China outlines first long-term grain security plan

November 13th, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Nov 13 (Xinhua) China Thursday released its first grain security plan setting a target of 500 billion kg by 2010 and more than 540 billion kg by 2020 in the face of rapid loss of arable land to urbanisation.The plan released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), called for ensuring at least 105.3 million hectares of land under grain cultivation and a grain self-sufficiency rate above 95 percent over the next 12 years.

The cultivated area last year was 105.7 million ha, up 6.4 million ha from 2003, and the self-sufficiency rate was 98 percent.

The rise in grain area came after China scrapped agriculture taxes, raised subsidies and introduced minimum state grain-purchasing prices to stimulate production.

China, with a population of 1.3 billion, is faced with severe challenges in safeguarding grain security due to rising living standards, decreasing arable land, water shortages and climate change, according to Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice minister of the NDRC.

“China’s grain supply and demand will be in a tight balance for a long period of time. So we have no plans to export grain in large volumes in the near future,” Zhang told reporters.

The plan urged the implementation of a “going out” strategy in the agricultural sector, encouraging domestic firms to seek for cooperation opportunities overseas.

This does not mean the government encourages hoarding farmlands overseas and there was no such plan, according to Zhang.

The government encouraged domestic firms to cooperate with foreign counterparts on projects such as grain, vegetable and fruit production but not to buy large tract of farmland or lease for long term, he said.

The government will work to ensure that there is at least 120 million ha of arable land, compared with 121.7 million ha last year, according to the plan. However, there is limited room to increase arable land because of industrialization and urbanization, the plan said.

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