Further Efforts Needed to Ensure Food Security

Despite the remarkable achievement China has made in its grain production over the past years, greater output is still needed to ensure a secure food supply for its 1.3 billion people.

According to the government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao on March 5 at the Fourth Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), China saw a grain output of 480 billion kg in 2005, 20 billion kg more than 2004.

"This indicates the Chinese government has attached great importance to food security and Chinese people are capable of supporting themselves, but we cannot handle the issue of grain production lightly," said Xu Jinglong, an NPC deputy from east China's agricultural province of Anhui.

In recent years, China has poured huge investment into agriculture, reducing the burden on farmers. But the country's grain production sector is still weak in fighting natural disasters.

Meanwhile, decreasing price grain and increasing cost in farming materials have discouraged farmers to work hard in grain production. Food security seems a hot issue for the government and people in China.

Zhang Aicheng, a farmer in Anhui, was disappointed after one year's farming. "The grain yield was only enough to live on due to booming cost of chemical fertilizers," the farmer said.

Zhang had worked in cities for five years before resuming farming in his hometown last year with the hope of earning more money under the favorable policy of free-tax agriculture production.

China's continuous growth in grain output over the past two years has not been enough to surpass the record 500 billion kg in 1998.

While rampant urbanization nibbles away more and more cropland, the population of China is growing toward an expected peak of 1.5 billion in 2030. It is a crucial and global issue to resolve the food security for such a large population.

In 1994, Lester Brown, an American researcher, proposed the so-called "food crisis in China" in his controversial environmental study "Who Will Feed China?" Brown predicted it would be difficult for China to feed a growing population.

Xu Jinglong, also an expert in farming, made positive remarks on Brown's prediction, saying food security does not imply that China is not able to feed its population.

"Although the per capita share of cropland is small, the Chinese government is taking a series of measures to protect cropland and stimulate production," Xu said.

According to the government work report, China will pour 339.7 billion yuan (US$42.5 billion) into the agriculture sector in 2006, 42.2 billion yuan more than 2005.

The booming investment is aimed at further modernizing agriculture, promoting steady growth of grain output and increasing farmers' income from grain growing.

Xing Kezhi, an NPC deputy and vice president of Tianjin Agricultural College in North China, called for promoting agriculture through not only favorable policies but also scientific and technological means.

New developments in agricultural technology will play a key role in ensuring China's food security, Xing said.

Wang Shouchen, an NPC deputy and agricultural official from Jilin Province in Northeast China, noted that the current issue of food security does not merely refer to grain rations.

"It is about the comprehensive security of foodstuffs, agricultural byproducts and even industrial materials which come from grain as raw resources," Wang explained.

Food security is closely related to people's living standard and safety of industrial material, he said, adding that the country should take further measures to promote grain production to guarantee comprehensive food security.

(Xinhua News Agency March 7, 2006)


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