China is capable of maintaining the balance between grain supply and demand in the coming years and food security is under no imminent threat despite four consecutive years of decrease in grain output. Han Jun, a top official from the State Council Development Research Center, made these remarks recently.
China's grain output may drop to 440 million tons this year, with grain consumption still outpacing production.
Since 2000, China's annual grain output has lingered around 455 million tons, while its grain consumption demand over the same period reached about 480 million tons annually.
But huge stockpiles of grain still guarantee that the country's grain supply exceeds demand.
From 1995, China had a boom grain harvest for four consecutive years, bringing the country's accumulated grain surplus to 500 million tons.
Facing this situation, farmers conscientiously reduced grain production and the Chinese government launched the ambitious "Turn Farmland to Forest and Grassland Project" in 1998.
"Therefore, if China could restore its annual grain output to 475 million tons in the coming years, plus appropriate grain imports, China would achieve the balance between grain supply and demand," said Han.
To increase grain output, the government should guarantee enough land and water resources for grain production. Strict rules should be worked out to prevent industrial construction occupying too much farmland, said Han.
And farmer's enthusiasm for planting grain should be encouraged. The grain price was comparatively low over recent years, however the production cost increased, which made grain growing less attractive for farmers.
Zhu Changguo, deputy director of the State Bureau of Grain Reserves said this year's grain production has been cut by 3 percent, as farmers have switched to more profitable crops. Therefore, the government should give proper subsidies to grain planters and help them reduce production costs by teaching them advanced planting technologies.
To ensure food security, about 90 percent of grain supply needs to be independently produced. At the same time, to properly utilize the international grain market to regulate the domestic grain supply and demand balance is necessary, Han said.
To ensure people have enough food is also an important part of the food security strategy. There are still more than 28 million rural people suffering from poverty, and some urban poor people as well. How to offer food assistance to low-income families is also an urgent issue for the government, Han said.
(China Daily November 25, 2003)