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Monday, October 16, 2000, updated at 19:46(GMT+8)

China's Agri-Ministry: Grain Output Falling

Grain output in China is expected to fall this year to 490 million tons, the Ministry of Agriculture has said.

The country could also have difficulty in securing a target of 4 per cent rise in per capita income for farmers, according to an Agricultural white paper put out Sunday.

The paper, released by the ministry every year to summarize agricultural development and predict new trends, shows that the country's 1999 grain yield dropped by 0.8 per cent from the previous year to 508 million tons. The fall was due to natural disasters and a smaller crop-growing area, the paper said.

Droughts, floods and pests devoured at least 35 million tons of grain and more than 600,000 tons of cotton in 1999, according to the white paper.

The ministry predicted that in accordance with the continuing momentum to optimize land use, acreage would be cut significantly for early indica rice, grown in southern regions, winter wheat and spring wheat in Northeast China.

Grain acreage totalled 113.161 million hectares last year, a decrease of 626,000 hectares from 1998, ministry statistics indicated.

Among cereal varieties planted last year, the area for high-quality rice increased by 2 million hectares to 12.66 million hectares, while the acreage dedicated to special wheat used in bread and biscuits expanded by 933,000 hectares.

Areas for higher-grade rice, corn and specialized wheat would see further expansion this year, according to the ministry sources.

China has witnessed a growing number of fields devoted to cotton growing, partly as a result of rising cotton prices. As a result, the ministry estimated output of the crop would hit 3.2 million tons.

While the country will be able to sustain a satisfactory agricultural production in 2000, adding to farmers' coffers will remain an issue, the white paper conceded.

The price of farm produce would continue to stay deplorably low this year, and township and village-run businesses, plagued by fund shortages and a feeble market demand, could not play a robust role as they once did in absorbing surplus rural labour and increasing farmers' income, according to the paper.

Rice prices tumbled by 7.9 per cent and the price of aquatic products dropped by 23.1 per cent last year, the Ministry of Agriculture statistics indicated.

But since efforts to restructure the rural economy and agriculture had only just been kicked off, farmers were unlikely to see the benefits yet, the white paper said.

It added that the macro-economic situation would adversely affect farmers' income growth and their migration to urban areas.

To hit the 4 per cent per capita income growth target for farmers, a lot of hard work is needed, the white paper concluded. [Source:]

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Grain output in China is expected to fall this year to 490 million tons, the Ministry of Agriculture has said.

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