Money News

China in push to bolster rice output in face of coronavirus

BEIJING (Reuters) - China must not let grain output decline this year, a government working group said on Tuesday, amid worries that measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak could hurt food security in the world’s most populous country.

FILE PHOTO: Da Wang's students harvest paddy rice on his farm at AnotherCommunity in Guanzhong village, Fuzhou, Fujian province, China, November 2, 2019. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Only weeks before the start of spring planting, the central government’s work group on managing the coronavirus ordered provinces to mobilise farmers and guarantee that planted acreage and grain output remain stable.

A lockdown on the movement of people to contain the spread of the coronavirus has raised fears that farmers will be unable to plough their fields and sow crops.

Hubei province, the virus epicentre with the strictest lockdown, produced 9% of China’s rice crop in 2019.

In a statement posted on the government’s website, the group also said that regions with good growing conditions should restore double-cropping of rice, reversing recent policy of targeting higher-quality grain over quantity.

It also said they should try to expand the planted acreage of early crop rice and reduce the amount of land left fallow.

China last week raised the floor price to be paid to farmers for indica rice purchased for state reserves, signalling increasing support for production of the crop.

The price was set at 2,420 yuan ($346.91) per tonne for early indica rice and 2,540 yuan for mid-season and late-crop indica, each increasing by 20 yuan a tonne from last year’s price.

It was the first increase to the state’s minimum rice purchase prices since 2014.

The government notice also urged officials to help farmers facing a labour shortage to avoid the risk of arable land being left untended.

($1 = 6.9759 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Goodman