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China Wins More than Kudos from Beating Hunger

The argument by American scholar Lester Brown that China would become a hungry dinosaur, triggering a global food crisis in 2030, appears weak on Monday - the 26th World Food Day - given China has emerged as the world's third largest food donor.

But the alarm bells sounded by his book "Who Will Feed China" in the 1990s should never be silenced.

About 23.65 million Chinese farmers are still hungry, with their daily expenditure lower than one US dollar. Worldwide, the figure is 750 million.

With less than 7 percent of the world's arable land and 20 percent of the world's population, China received food aid for more than a quarter of a century.

In 2005, one year after it was removed from the food aid recipient list, China became the world's third largest food aid donor after the United States and European Union, with 577,000 tons of grain.

But the Chinese government has gained more than just kudos. It now bears high expectations from both home and abroad.

The domestic urban poor seek more food and a narrowed wealth gap with their urban compatriots. The demand for food, financial and technological aid from abroad is also great.

By the end of August, the loss in grain crops caused by natural disasters such as drought, rainstorms, typhoons and earthquakes in China this year was estimated at 40 billion kilograms, more than the loss for the whole year in 2005.

Farmers in drought-ravaged Shandong Province have been forced to postpone wheat planting while corns and beans in the north and late rice in the south still face the danger of frost.

Despite these setbacks, this year's grain output was up on the previous year for the third consecutive year, topping last year's record of 484 billion kilograms.

But there is no reason to relax in the fight against hunger. World Food Day is not a day for China to pride itself upon past merits. It's a day to look ahead and take the next stride.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2006)

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