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China aims to ease inflation by ensuring food supply, safety
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China's efforts to deflate consumer price increases this year will focus on farm produce. This could be more costly due to a global trend in increasing prices and rising domestic production costs, a senior agricultural official noted here on Tuesday.


"The Chinese government will strive to bring the price hikes under control ... by expanding (farm) production for steady supply," said Gao Hongbin, vice minister of agriculture, at a press conference.


The prices of the country's major foodstuffs, including grain, pork and cooking oil, surged in late 2007, lifting the nation's consumer price index (CPI) to an 11-year high of 6.9 percent in November, well above the government-set three percent target.


The price rise related to the global market, said Gao. He pointed out wheat, maize and soy beans in the global market were climbing and that crude oil had broken the 100 U.S. dollars a barrel mark.


He also cited increased labor costs and fewer farmers to grow crops due to the fast urbanization.


"Rural residents who may raise pigs have been swarming into cities and have become pork-consumers."


China produced more than 500 million tons of grain in 2007, the fourth consecutive year of yield growth. Production, however, was short of demand.


"We aim for another grain production of more than 500 million tons in 2008," Gao told reporters.


He added the government had introduced a series of policy incentives for farm production and higher allowances for poor city dwellers so that their lives would not be too affected in face of rising prices.


Battle to continue


With food quality and safety also becoming a major concern for both consumers at home and abroad, Gao said China's farm produce was much safer following a four-month rectification campaign it launched in August.


"The compliance rate of pesticide residue for vegetables under surveillance in November increased to 95.3 percent from 93.2 percent in September," he said. The amount of pork tainted with clenbuterol, a banned feed additive, also declined, Gao said, with the compliance rate rising to 98.4 percent in November from 97.7 percent in September.


Gao also dismissed a recent New York Times article entitled "In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters" as "sensational" and "misleading".


"It is a question of common sense. Do you believe that fish can live in toxic water?" he asked.


Gao said China exported 2.7 million tons of aquatic products every year, 98 percent of which are up to standards.


"However, our work to regulate the quality and safety of agricultural products is still facing arduous challenges," Gao told reporters.


As the upcoming Olympics will draw hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors to Beijing, the ministry has planned a special campaign to ensure market supply and food quality and safety in the city, said Gao.


The campaign, which would be a team effort between the ministry and 13 provincial governments, aims to "further improve the quality and safety of agricultural products", he said.


Gao said most of the food for athletes and referees will come from China, while adding, "I will not rule out the possibility that some food could be imported from abroad."


(Xinhua News Agency January 9, 2008)

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