Despite China’s population increasing by 270 million during the past 20 years, grain production per capita has still managed to rise from 300 to 400 kg in the same period due to major developments in agricultural technology.
Song Jian, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the first International Rice Congress which was held recently in Beijing that, “Chinese agricultural technology had made enormous contributions to safeguarding China’s food supplies.”
China has over 1.2 billion people. Although China holds the world’s third largest total area of land dedicated to agriculture, per capita farmland is a mere 0.1 hectares, which accounts for 43 percent of the world’s per capita farming area. The Chinese government has given top priority to agricultural and rural development, successfully feeding 22 percent of the world population with only 9 percent of the world's total farmland.
"China is showing the world the way to economic progress and poverty reduction, under extreme population pressure, with limited natural resources," said Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee.
Rice is the staple food for more than 50 percent of Chinese people. The total area for rice cultivation is 28.6 million hectares. The cultivation of rice occupies almost one third of farmland in China, and total rice production accounts for 40 percent of all food produced.
China had become the world's largest rice producer and consumer, making up 20 percent of the world's total rice farmland and 31 percent of rice output. The average per hectare yield is 1.6 times greater than the world average.
Song Jian said, “Due to the efforts of agricultural scientists, China has witnessed a continuous upgrading of rice varieties and farming technologies, with the total output and per hectare yield still rising.”
The use of modern technology for the cultivation of rice in China began in 1970. Owing to the efforts of Chinese agronomists, led by Yuan Longping, commonly regarded as “the father of hybrid rice,” significant achievements have been made in propagation of hybrid rice, helping China increase its total grain output.
Statistics show that the per hectare yield of rice in 1950 was 2.1 tonnes, increasing to 3.97 tonnes in 1978, and 6.15 tonnes in 1999. In 2000, the concept of “super rice” was experimented with agronomists, again led by Yuan Longping, achieving up to 10.5 tonnes per hectare. By 1999, the accumulated additional output of hybrid rice was 300 billion kg. Thousands of Chinese farmers were able to assist in solving the nation’s food problem.
Peter Kenmoore, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization official, said, "Thanks to hybrid rice, Chinese farmers have reduced by several million hectares land allocated to the production of rice, freeing up ground for other agricultural activities and giving farmers the opportunity to improve their incomes."
Song Jian said, “At present there are 800 million people in the world who do not have enough food to eat. They are still battling with perils of hunger. The world’s population is expected to rise from 6 billion to 9 billion by the middle of 21st century. China’s population is estimated to reach 1.6 billion by 2032. Maintaining sustainable rice production in the 21st century is critical in securing adequate food resources to feed the whole world. This duty and responsibility will fall to scientists, and especially agronomists.
According to Shen Guofang, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, “China's agriculture is still confronted with many challenges, and the way forward for sustainable development in agriculture is a revolution in agricultural science and technology.”
(china.org.cn by Wu Nanlan, September 23, 2002)