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High-quality Grain Production Project Starts

China's weakening grain production capability in recent years has made the government kick off a seven-year project to promote high-quality grain output nationwide.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced Thursday the launch of the project, which covers 13 provinces and autonomous regions with the goal of enhancing national food safety, increasing farmers' income and promoting the international competitiveness of China's grain industry.

In 2003, China's total grain product dropped 5.8 percent, because of reduced planting acreage and ensuing natural disasters. At the turn of autumn and winter 2003, China raised its food grain price for the first time since 1997, which was regarded by some experts as a reminder for the government to adjust current grain security policy.

"It is more vital to promote grain production capacity than to stockpile grain," said Ma Xiaohe, director of the Institute of Industrial Development under the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC).

The gist of the project implementation, according to a recent State Council meeting, is to protect and arouse the enthusiasm of farmers and local governments of leading grain producing areas to grow grain, and give more support to major grain production regions in increasing their production capacity.

According to the project, the production capacity of fine grain seed strains will be enhanced to meet the needs of over 80 percent of counties covered by the project.

Nationwide supervision and alert systems as well as quick- response mechanisms on major pest disasters will be improved to raise the pest disaster forecast accuracy to over 90 percent, and supervision over pesticide usage will be strengthened to reduce pesticide residue on grain.

The project demands quality improvement of infertile cropland to meet the standards set by the country, and modern agricultural machinery will be spread to approximately 50 percent of acreage covered by the project.

The project targets a 20-30 percent seed and fertilizer saving as well as remarkable progress in grain processing. The country will make substantial efforts to raise the proportion of processed grain from eight percent to 15 percent by the end of 2007, according to the project.

The acreage sown to grain must be expanded, and the country will make efforts to increase the yield per unit area and ensure that grain output totals 455 billion kilograms this year, said Ma Kai, minister in Charge of the State Development and Reform Commission.

"Food safety is related to the overall situation of national economic development and social stability," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a recent State Council executive meeting.

(Xinhua News Agency April 16, 2004)

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