China's food industry, which has lagged behind developed countries for around 20 years in terms of technology and equipment, will face enormous challenges when the country opens the sector wider to comply with WTO obligations.
Zhang Guobao, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the macroeconomic management agency under the State Council, made the remarks at a recent national food industry conference.
He said that foreign food investors were trying to grab a bigger market share by using their advanced technology and huge capital resources, posing a threat to China's food industry.
Meanwhile, foreign countries were upgrading inspection standards for an increasing number of imported food products, putting great pressure on China's food exports, said Zhang.
A development program for China's food industry in the 11th Five-Year (2006-2010) Plan noted that the food industry has witnessed rapid growth in recent years.
However, the sector still does not generate sufficient added value, is too small in scale and irrationally structured, and consumes too many resources.
China needs to upgrade its food industry technology, enhance independent innovation and improve food security, according to the plan jointly published by the NDRC, and the ministries of agriculture and science and technology.
Over the next five years, China will focus its technological efforts on processing grain, edible oil, vegetables and fruits, meat, aquatic and dairy products, beverage and sugar.
Last year, the output value of China's food industry came to 2 trillion yuan (US$250 billion), an increase of 97.2 percent over 2000, or an average growth rate of 19.4 percent from 2000 to 2005.
Industrial added value totaled 630 billion yuan (US$79 billion), up 87.8 percent from 2000, or an annual increase of 17.6 percent.
(Xinhua News Agency October 29, 2006)