Xi says China needs own seeds to guarantee country's 'food bowl' -Xinhua

BEIJING (Reuters) -Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country needs to be independent in seeds to achieve food security, state media reported on Monday, reiterating growing concerns about China’s reliance on imports of food.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at a meeting commending role models of the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 8, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo

Xi made the remarks on Sunday while visiting the Yazhou Bay Seed Laboratory in the southern island of Hainan, a major breeding base for the seed sector, Xinhua reported.

“Only by holding Chinese seeds tightly with our own hands can we stabilise the Chinese food bowl and achieve food security,” Xi is reported to have said.

Seed sources must be independent and controllable, and seed industry technology must be self-reliant, he added, according to the report.

China has stepped up its focus on food security since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, which upended global supply chains, threatening large imports of grain into the country.

Last month, Xi told delegates to the annual parliament meeting that China must not rely on the international market for food, amid further turmoil since Russia’s invasion of major grain exporter Ukraine.

China produces most crop seed at home due to quarantine requirements on imports as well as production costs but some vegetables, such as spinach, cauliflower and carrots, are grown largely from foreign seed, according to a state media report last year.

Experts say government attention to the sector is important.

“We’re currently very focused on rice and wheat but we need to do more in vegetables and fruits, animals and maize,” said Fan Shenggen, professor at China Agricultural University.

He added that return on investment in new seed varieties was “very high”.

In late 2020, the central leadership said the country’s seed industry was a weak link in the food chain, and needed to make better use of science and technology to achieve a turnaround.

Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore