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More efforts to protect grain crop
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A senior grain official said on Friday that the country is exploring more ecological and effective ways to manage its grain storage in a bid to ensure safe resources for consumption and production.

As part of a project with the United National Industrial Development Organization, China has already stopped using bromomethane as a pesticide in its grain storage facilities, as it damages the ozone layer and leaves a residue in foodstuffs, He Yi, director of the department of distribution and science and technology development under the State Grain Administration (SGA), said.

Tan Bengang, an SGA official who oversaw the project to replace the chemical, told China Daily on Friday: "We now use phosphine fumigation instead of bromomethane to control pests at our storage depots, especially those in southern China which are most prone to damage by pests."

Phosphine is more environmentally friendly and less likely to leave residues in foodstuffs, experts have said.

Meanwhile, authorities are experimenting with other physical methods of controlling pests in grain depots, including using special inert dust and simulating low-voltage oxygen environments in which the pests cannot survive.

"However, we have yet to implement these methods in grain depots," Tan said.

According to official figures, the proportion of grain lost at storage depots is about 0.2 percent. However, the figure can be as high as 5 to 10 percent for individual grain producers due to pests and mildew.

Finding effective ways to reduce the amount of grain lost by producers and establishing greener storage methods are two of six areas authorities want to address with the aid of international cooperation.

The other areas are the development of modern grain logistics, enhancing the refined production of grain and edible oils, building quality control and rapid examination systems, and setting up a modern information system for grain circulation.

As the world's largest producer, China's grain harvest is expected to exceed 500 million tons this year.

With such high volumes being produced, much of the crop has to be put in storage, sometimes for as long as five years. As a result, minimizing losses and ensuring green storage methods are the top priorities for the nation's grain authorities.

Agriculture authorities in other countries have also expressed an interest in cooperating with China on grain technology.

Peter Hewitt, the agriculture counselor with the Australian Embassy in China, said: "Grain safety is a global issue, not just a bilateral issue.

"We hope we can improve the sharing of information, technology and capacity building not only on a bilateral basis, but also on a multi-level basis."

After a visit to laboratories at the Academy of State Administration of Grain on Friday, Hewitt said: "China is a world leader in grain technology research, especially in storage and transport."

(China Daily December 15, 2007)

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