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Grain trade in deficit for Jan, Feb
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China's foreign trade in farm produce went into deficit in the first two months of the year, compared with a surplus during the same period last year, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday.

Both exports and imports increased over the January-February period, but the growth of the latter was significantly higher, a ministry official who refused to give his name said.

Chen Hongzhou, an analyst with Galaxy Securities, said the figures suggested that the government's measures to rein in exports to protect supplies to the domestic market were taking effect.

The ministry's announcement coincided with a statement by the State Administration of Grain (SAG) that it will keep grain prices stable amid supply shortages and rising agricultural costs.

Zeng Liying, deputy director of the SAG, said at an industry meeting on Monday there is growing pressure to increase the prices of major grains this year as a result of supply shortages, soaring agricultural costs and fluctuations on international futures markets.

However, the country has sufficient reserves and will ensure price stability, she said.

The demand-supply gap has narrowed from 50 billion kg in 2003, to 15 billion kg now, following four years of bumper harvests, Zeng said.

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