China to invest in agriculture innovation to boost food security

BEIJING Wed Feb 1, 2012 8:54am EST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Wednesday it would boost agriculture innovation in an effort to increase food output, signaling that the world's most populous country is trying to tackle outdated farm and food infrastructure to feed its people.

China accounts for a fifth of the world's population with less than 9 percent of its arable land, and the cabinet suggested in a document that China's leaders were aiming to get serious about technology to ensure long-term food supplies.

The State Council, or cabinet, said in the first policy document of the year it would increase investment and subsidies for the agricultural technology sector this year to stabilize grain production, state media reported.

Technological innovation in the sector would "improve land yield, resource efficiency and labor productivity," the official Xinhua news agency said.

The No. 1 Document, as it is called, has for the past nine years focused on rural issues, including agriculture, water conservation, farmers' income, and land transfer issues.

The State Council said in this year's paper the government would encourage research focusing on areas including bio-technology, seed production and effective use of farmland, Xinhua reported.

It also said the government would seek to push banks to increase lending to rural areas and keep prices of agricultural commodities at "a reasonable level."

China has been battling persistent consumer inflation, which was largely driven by food prices, and hit a peak in July of 6.5 percent.

Agriculture experts had expected the State Council to set guidelines on seed cultivation and on implementing a program of promoting the application of genetically modified technology that was introduced in 2008.

The central government estimates that China's national grain consumption will reach 572.5 million tonnes by 2020. Although China is largely self sufficient in wheat, it is not in soybeans and corn.

In 2010, China returned to importing corn in earnest after years of blocking foreign grain, buying a record 1.57 million tonnes, up 18 times from the previous year because domestic production couldn't keep up with demand.

Some analysts say China's agricultural production growth lags behind the country's overall economic growth.

The country is expected to triple corn purchases this year, and rice imports are also expected to rise.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Tracy Zheng; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Comments (2)
China’s agriculture continues to rise. Grain harvests in 2011 reached 571.21 million tonnes in 2011, so it has nearly reached its 2020 grain consumption level of 572.5 million tonnes. China has rising wealth, and its people want more meat, so it imports more corn to feed demands for pork. China has increased its arable land to over 15% with land reclamation and irrigation. The average annual increase is about 2.75%. China began a large irrigation project in 2001 that should be complete by 2020, officially, but may last until 2025 to correct any errors in design. China will take advantage of flooding and typhoons, natural desalination plants, that hit eastern and southern provinces. China will pump the extra water to northern and western provinces for irrigation. The northern portion was completed in 2010 and will be adjusted through 2015. By 2025, China should be able to feed 3 or 4 billion people. In addition, China invests in small, micro-sized farms that have greater resource conservation levels, and it continues to work on “agricultural biotechnology, seed production, new materials, precision farming, water-saving irrigation, new fertilizers, epidemic control, marine agriculture, product processing and shipping, and farm equipment” for normal farms. China approaches the question of food production from many directions at once and is likely to succeed. The US, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Australia are becoming polluted deserts and may depend on food from the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China.

Feb 01, 2012 5:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
JamesEnam wrote:

Those feel good stats have absolutely no real world grounding, pure fantasy. It’s blatantly obvious to anyone who’s ever been to China that arable land is decreasing due to desertification and extreme pollution. But even then this isn’t something you can hide, look at a satellite map and you will clearly see that China is not a naturally productive area for such a scale of agriculture, the west is barren or at too high an altitude to be productive. While the east, where most of China’s population is located is overcrowded and farmers compete with industry and development for the small patches of land often squeezed between the hilly/mountainous terrain, you’d have to knock down whole mountain ranges to gain more arable land. It’s a little ironic you’d label other countries “polluted” deserts given the circumstances.

Feb 01, 2012 10:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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