A steady decline in arable land is posing a threat to the country's long-term grain supply.
Despite ample supplies in the short term, it is feared that production could fall increasingly short of demand.
Vice-Minister Yin Chengjie said: "We should never neglect grain security in China even though we reaped good harvests in recent years."
At an agriculture seminar in Beijing at the weekend, he said the government should consider grain security over the next 10 or 20 years.
"The rapid decrease in arable land is our top concern when talking about food security," said Yin.
Statistics show that 1 million hectares of arable land was lost to urban or infrastructure construction every year between 1998 and 2004. "The speed is shocking," said Yin.
The nation's grain production this year is expected to reach 480 million tons, up from 469.5 million tons in 2004. There has been a gradual rise in production since 2003, when China's grain output hit 430 million tons, a 14-year low.
But, Yin said, China's annual grain consumption is 490 million tons, meaning the country will have to take 10 million tons from national grain reserves.
"Our national grain reserve is decreasing as we fill the shortage," said Yin, adding that at its peak, China's grain reserves totaled 250 million tons.
Measures must be taken to prevent illegal occupation and misuse of farmland, he added.
Jiang Zhenghua, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress, urged strict punishment for those who violate land laws.
"China will spare no effort to protect its arable land while working to improve the efficiency of land use in industrial and commercial projects," said Jiang.
It was agreed that arable land protection measures should be strengthened when the government drafts its blueprint for the next five years.
(China Daily November 14, 2005)