December 27, 2011


China stresses stability in grain production



Top officials of China's State Council, the country's cabinet, pointed out that maintaining long-term and stable development of grain production is important amid rising production costs and climate change.


The top officials made the call at a meeting held on Monday (Dec 26) by the State Council in Beijing, which commended 200 top grain-producing counties and 700 agricultural scientists, farmers, and skilled workers who made great contributions to the nation's grain production in 2011.


Government data showed China's grain output rose to a record high of 571.21 million tonnes this year. The figure represented a year-on-year increase of 4.5% and marked the eighth consecutive year of growth for the country's grain output.


Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said that 2011 also marked the fifth straight year that the nation's total grain output exceeded 500 million tonnes, which indicates a more consolidated foundation for food security.


However, he said the grain harvest this year has not come easily, as frequent natural disasters and sharply rising production costs posed challenges.


The growth of grain output and the rise of farmers' income will be more difficult in the coming year because of the massive output scale this year, the uncertainty of climate, and costlier agricultural production, he said at Monday's meeting, which was also attended by Premier Wen Jiabao.


The officials agreed that the nation must place grain production at a "particular important" position in its economic and social development by further improving the construction of infrastructure related to grain production and agriculture and constantly increasing subsidies for farming.


They also agreed the country should continue to raise the minimum purchasing price for grains and provide greater rewards for top grain-producing counties, so that incentives can be created to boost the enthusiasm from local authorities, experts, and farmers to stabilize grain production in the world's most populous country.


The 200 counties honoured at the gathering on Sunday in the Great Hall of the People produced nearly one third of the nation's grain on just a quarter of the country's arable land.


"We take great care of our farmland, and we are speeding up the construction of agriculture-related infrastructure, and we also attach great importance to the input of technology," said Li Guoqiang, head of Yushu city in the north-east province of Jilin.


Li said that over the past eight years, grain output in Yushu improved by leaps and bounds, rising from two million tonnes to 3.1 million tonnes.


Guo Tiancai, a professor with Henan Agricultural University, said he led a team to successfully popularise a type of technology that has helped boost wheat yield per mu (one mu equals around 667 square metres) to 614 kg over 100,000 mu of arable land in Junxian County in Henan Province this year. The record Guo set was compared to the world's average of 200 kg per mu.


The central government this year has stepped up fiscal spending on the development of agriculture and rural regions as well as on the improvement of farmers' livelihoods, in efforts to bridge gaps of wealth distribution and urban-rural development in the world's second largest economy.


Xie Xuren, Minister of Finance, said on Sunday fiscal spending from the central government for agriculture-related projects and farmers are expected to top RMB1.04 trillion (US$164 billion) this year, which represents a 21.3% increase compared to the figure last year.


The fiscal expenditures contributed the construction of more water-related facilities for farmlands and the consolidation of small reservoirs.


Local governments' finance departments have also implemented subsidy programs for pig farmers and sought measures to raise farmers' incomes, such as hiking minimum purchasing prices for wheat and rice.


To boost farmers' interest in farming, RMB140.6 billion (US$22.3 billion) were deployed to subsidise the purchase of materials ranging from machinery, improved crop varieties, to agricultural production materials.


Around RMB227 billion (US$36 billion) have been appropriated to help impoverished farmers in the rural regions so far this year.

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