Authorities in Heilongjiang, China's No.1 commodity grain producer, on Wednesday disclosed an investment plan in which the region's total annual grain output will be raised to 50 billion kg of grain in five years.
In an addition to a grain output rise, this northeastern Chinese province will also be added with an extra 666,667 hectares of paddy fields by the year 2012 with an investment of 57.69 billion yuan (about 8.48 billion U.S. dollars), according to Heilongjiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission.
Heilongjiang is just one of several Chinese provinces that have drafted detailed plans to boost grain production in their respective regions since July 2 when the State Council, China's cabinet, approved a state mid- and long-term grain security plan that aims to keep the nation's annual grain output above 500 billion kg by the year 2010 or raise production capacity beyond 540 billion kg a year by 2020.
Last month, the National Development and Reform Commission published the Outlines Regarding the State Mid- and Long-Term Grain Security Plan for 2008-2020 Period, reiterating the goal of stabilizing the country's grain self-sufficiency rate above 95 percent and attaining a capability of producing 540 billion kg of grains by the year of 2020.
China's prime grains include rice, wheat, maize, soybean, potatoes and pulses. The country produced 501.5 billion kg of grains last year, keeping a self-sufficiency rate 90 percent in grain supply as a result of large imports of soybean and maize.
A projection given by the National Development and Reform Commission has set the country's total grain output at 525 billion kg this year.
But the country's sufficiency has been threatened by a number of factors, including changing diets caused by rising affluence, industrialization, urbanization, population rise, which have caused a robust rise in grain consumption, and by decrease of farmland, shortage of water supply, and climate change, which had negative impact on grain production.
"The decrease of farmland and shortage of water supply and climate change have had an increasingly negative impact on grain production, and the grain supply and demand in China will be in a tight balance for a long period of time," said an official from the National Development and Reform Commission.
Available arable land across China shrank to 122 million hectares in 2006, compared with 131 million hectares in 1996.
Increased urbanization has improved people's lives, but it has also increased grain consumption. China's population is expected to reach 1.45 billion people by 2020 and 1.5 billion in 2033, exerting more pressure on food security.
Li Maosong, a researcher with Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and also an expert on the grain issue, said the country had grain bumper harvest from 2003 through to 2007, with an increased grain output amounting to 44.5 billion kg, but agricultural disasters cut the country's potential yields by 50 billion kg a year.
And the trend seems to get worse as time goes on, Li warned.
Heilongjiang, Henan, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jilin provinces have worked out detailed plans for grain output boost.
With some 2,000 rivers and lakes running through its territory, Heilongjiang is naturally well positioned for grain production. It produced 40 billion kg of grain last year and is expected to reap 42.4 billion kg this year. And 74 percent of the province's grain are sold to the market.
In accordance with Heilongjiang's Plan Regarding Safeguarding the State's Grain Security Strategy, Heilongjiang will largely rely on upgrading low and moderate yield farmland to help boost its grain output target.
Yang Yuming, an official with the production section of Heilongjiang Agricultural Commission, said there were 6.93 million hectares of low and moderate yield farmland across the province.
"Heilongjiang will be blessed with 11.2 billion kg of grains if these farmland can be improved," said Yang.
Jilin Province, a neighbor of Heilongjiang, is hoping to boost its grain output by 5 billion kg in five years through land reclamation.
Henan sets the grain output increase at 15 billion kg, Jiangxi 13.5 billion kg and Anhui 11 billion kg.
These five Chinese regions will have an added-up potential grain producing capacity of 54.5 billion kg, exceeding the state set grain output boost goal.
Up to now, only Jilin's grain output boost plan, with a budget of 26 billion yuan, has been approved by the State Council.
Apart from the above mentioned five provinces, other key grain producing areas in the country -- Hubei, Hunan, Shandong, Sichuan, Jiangsu provinces, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region -- have also been busy working on new grain production plans.
Massive investments, as well as the spread of improved technologies -- high-yield seeds, and better use of water, will play an important role in the country's drive to attain self sufficiency goal in grain supply.
China increased spending on rural areas, agriculture and farmers by 30 percent from last year to 562.5 billion yuan this year.
Out of the central government's 4 trillion yuan economic stimulus plan announced in early November, tens of billions will be flowing into improving infrastructure in the countryside, which will in turn be helpful in bolstering grain output.
Yin Xiaojian, deputy chief of the Rural Economy Institute with Jiangxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said China would soon enter an era of buying grain security from the state coffers.
"The fact that the state will play a leading role in the massive investment campaign, supported by different localities, conforms with the state's development strategy about subsidizing agriculture with industry or countryside being helped by cities, which is of great significance to safeguarding grain security, but also advancing progress of rural areas, agriculture and farmers as a whole," said Yin.
Yin reckoned that parts of the grain-boost plans put forward by the five provinces were practical.
"If these provinces could implement the plans to the fullest extent, plus no output failure in other parts of the country, the state's goal of securing an extra 40 billion kg of grain by the year 2020 could be within reach," said Yin.
Farmers could benefit by the nation's massive grain boosting drive too.
According to Heilongjiang's plan, by the year of 2020, local farmers will see their per capita net income quadruple their standard of 4,132 yuan for 2007. (One U.S. dollar equals 6.8 yuan)