Agricultural efficiency crucial for food security

08:15, January 18, 2011      

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China will maintain more than 90 percent of its self-sufficiency in grains during the coming decade by developing agricultural technologies and improving land use for food production, an agricultural expert said on Saturday.

In 2010, the country saw the seventh consecutive record grain harvest with production of 546 million tons. The government said current grain stocks exceed 200 million tons, with grain self-sufficiency standing at 95 percent for the last decade.

However, shrinking farmland and imbalanced use of that land poses challenges for the country's grain producers.

He Bingsheng, president of China Agricultural University, one of the country's leading agricultural economists, said that the demand for grain in 2010 had already exceeded the 580 million ton forecast made by many researchers for 2020.

"By 2020, our demand will be bigger. We still have 10 years for development, but the challenges and pressures are big too," he said.

"There's a greater concentration of (grain) output in production areas, and with water scarce in northern areas, sustainability (of output) is worrying," Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, said in an essay published on the website of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Rural Development Institute.

Moreover, Stephen Green, a China economist with Standard Chartered, published a report in January saying a slowdown is likely in China's productivity growth for grain in the coming years, and corn is an "obvious candidate" for increased imports.

In addition to corn, imports of soybeans, cotton and other agricultural commodities revealed a substantial gap in China's domestic food market. In 2010, the country ran a deficit of more than $2 billion in agricultural trade, according to official figures.

"A certain amount of imports are necessary. But for the whole country, food security has to be ensured, because for a country as big as China the international market falls far short of our demand," said He.

He said agricultural production in China now faces a number of challenges.

The amount of farmland is finite, so the country must improve the yield per unit of area, and in doing so technology will play an important role.

He said it is also important to improve the agricultural infrastructure.

His remarks came just a few weeks after the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held its annual agriculture working conference in late December.

He said the focus on water infrastructure demonstrates the government's intention to improve rural infrastructures.

China has long seen 90 percent of grain self-sufficiency as the benchmark for national food security.

Food security has become a global concern. Rising prices in 2010 prompted the Food and Agricultural Organization to send out warnings of a global "food-price shock", with inflation plaguing the emerging markets and posing a threat to developed economies such as the United Kingdom and those in the eurozone.

Source: China Daily
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