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World rice price hikes "will not hurt supply"
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08:31, April 01, 2008

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Rising international rice prices are not a cause for major concern in China, Premier Wen Jiabao said in Vientiane Monday.

"Please set your mind at rest because China has abundant supply of rice," Wen said, adding that the country has stockpiled about 40-50 million tons of rice.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of the Greater Mekong River Subregion Summit.

He admitted that the recent 30 percent jump in international rice prices did have an impact on China's food prices but said the country is largely self-dependent for rice.

Wen pointed out that the volume of rice traded on the world markets is less than a tenth of that in the Chinese market.

He said the central government has taken a series of measures to promote agricultural production such as raising farm subsidies, constructing irrigation works, and popularizing the use of science and technology.

"China is capable of feeding itself with its own rice production," Wen said, adding that the central government will ensure an ample supply of food including rice to compatriots in both Hong Kong and Macao.

Some Hong Kong and Macao residents have reportedly been rushing to buy rice in anticipation of rising prices.

Rising production costs and weather-induced disasters are behind the rising global prices, analysts said. Major rice producers, such as Vietnam, India and Egypt, have imposed curbs on rice exports, exacerbating the situation.

But in January this year, China's rice exports increased 49.7 percent to reach 138,000 tons, compared to the same period last year.

In February, the purchase price for non-glutinous rice rose to 1,700 yuan ($242) per ton on the domestic market, up 10.5 percent year on year, according to reports quoting the Ministry of Agriculture.

To ensure price stability, the Chinese government last week raised the minimum purchase price of rice and wheat for the second time this year.

It has also increased direct subsidies for farmers.

"Those measures, especially the hike in the minimum purchase price, will boost production," said Xiao Haifeng, a professor at China Agricultural University.

Source: China Daily

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