* Plans to raise China's grain production capacity by 50
* To continue stockpiling programmes for corn, rapeseed and
* China to speed up energy pricing reforms to reduce
reliance on coal
By David Stanway and Niu Shuping
BEIJING, March 5 China plans to broaden the
scope and increase spending on agricultural subsidies for grains
and other commodities in a bid to boost food security, the
country's top economic planner said on Wednesday.
Beijing also intends to speed up energy pricing reforms to
reduce its reliance on coal.
Maintaining food security and environmental protection are
among China's top priorities this year, as rapid urbanisation
threatens to swallow up arable farmlands and pollution chokes
swathes of the country.
"Problems hindering steady agricultural development are
prominent. Resource and environmental constraints have
tightened; infrastructure for irrigation and water conservancy
is still weak ... and agricultural production is not
profitable," the National Development and Reform Commission
(NDRC) said in its 2014 work report.
The NDRC said it will lift funds for agricultural subsidies,
and devote more to the production of grain and other important
agricultural products, new agricultural businesses, and major
agricultural regions that produce grain, canola seed or hogs.
Support will also be provided for beef and mutton
Beijing said China's cultivated land must not fall below a
red line of 120 million hectares. It also plans to raise China's
grain production capacity by 50 million tonnes, as well as build
up regional and large-scale commercial grain production centres.
China produced 602 million tonnes of grain last year.
The NDRC said it will continue to implement annual
stockpiling programmes for corn, rapeseed and sugar. The
government has already said it would end stockpiling for cotton
and soy in 2014.
"Where conditions allow, we will carry out trial subsidy
programmes based on the actual area sown to grain or grain
output, and use subsidies in a more precise and targeted way,"
the NDRC said.
Beijing is seeking ways to encourage farmers to stay on the
land, by providing subsidies and investing in rural
infrastructure, but top researchers have said that the world's
most populous nation will need to become less fixated on
self-sufficiency targets and use overseas markets more.
To increase the proportion of non-fossil fuel, Beijing said
it will adjust tariffs for wind power, establish a "sound
system" of tiered pricing for gas consumption, as well as
improving the pricing mechanism linking coal to power prices.
With cities across China suffering hazardous pollution,
Beijing have vowed to slash coal consumption and shut polluting
firms to clean up the environment.
China has already raised prices for gas-fired generation and
imported natural gas last year. It is expected to hikes prices
further this year to boost supplies of the fuel, a move which
will benefit utilities such as China Huaneng
and gas importers like PetroChina
(Additional reporting by Dominique Patton; Writing by Fayen
Wong; Editing by Ed Davies)