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Grain output stable in 2008 despite snow ravage
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China's grain output will remain stable at around 500 million tons this year if there are no major natural disasters, the State Grain Administration (SGA) said on Saturday.

The ongoing snow, the worst in the country in five decades, has rendered limited effects on grain production, Chen Xiwen, head of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Rural Work, told the media.

"The ratio of grain reserves to consumption in China is much higher than the safe line recognized internationally," said the SGA in a written reply to a Xinhua interview request, without disclosing details.

The grain watchdog said the country produced 501.5 million tons of grain in 2007, the fourth consecutive year of increase despite months of severe drought. The year ended with a relatively high level of grain reserves.

SGA figures show China consumed 500 million tons of grain in 2006. Grain consumption was expected to have grown steadily in 2007, but with a narrower gap between supply and demand, according to the administration.

A long-lasting drought, the worst in a decade in the country, caused losses of 37.36 billion kilograms of grain last year.

Snowstorms that started to hit southern China in mid January, however, have taken a limited toll on grain output as most winter grain crops were planted in the north. Fresh vegetables, however, have suffered severe blows, Chen said.

Meanwhile, grain price increases in the second half of 2007 may affect the price level in 2008, the SGA said.

China's consumer price index (CPI) rose 4.8 percent in 2007, with the prices of grains, such as soybean, reaching a record high.

The government also took a series of measures to rein in price increases. These included injecting state grain reserves into the market and promoting sales of grain purchased at minimum prices from farmers.

(Xinhua News Agency February 3, 2008)

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