China in Pursuit of Rational Grain Security Strategy

China, a major grain producer and consumer, is now in search of a grain security policy with lower cost and less risk, by adjusting its original grain strategy.

China's past self-sufficient grain policy put emphasis on the output, with grain reserve as the balancing lever in its grain market.

After five consecutive years of grain harvest since 1995, the provisions now have overrun the consumption demand, which triggered a price reduction and overstock of foodstuff.

It is estimated that each Chinese now has 400 kilograms of grain products, which is the highest rate in the world.

Not having a scientific management system of the grain stock, China's cost on grain production grows at a speed of 10 percent every year, which causes great loss to both Chinese farmers and the national economy.

Research shows that China has the full potential to feed its growing population, said Kang Xiaoguang from an environment research center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and whether it is worthwhile to keep increasing the grain production is now a problem.

Measuring the present situation in the grain market, the central government instructed agricultural departments to reduce the output of corn, wheat, rice and other crops early this year, which was the first time since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

The expected grain output for the year 2000 has been set for 490 million tons, 10 million tons less than the actual output of 1999.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture said the acreage of grain planting this year is over 1.6 billion mu, or some 106 million hectares, reduced by some 50 million mu than last year.

Some low-quality wheat, rice and corn breeds have also been excluded out of the national protection price list since last year.

China's ongoing strategic adjustment on the agricultural configuration implies that the nation is trying to seek a balance between the demand and supply of grain, experts said.

It is a pressing task to readjust the regional layout of crop planting and improve the breeds and quality of all the kinds of grains, said Liu Chengguo, vice minister of the Ministry of Agricultural.

It is proper for some coastal cities in eastern China to engage in the businesses of industrial crop production and exportation of special agricultural products.

For cities in central China, they should develop the production of some high-quality and forage grains. While western China may continue its grain-for-green efforts and foster the ecological agriculture.

As China is acceding to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the international grain trade may help China to balance its grain demand and supply, according to Gao Binguai with Nanjing Agricultural University.

The grain imports and exports along with the structural adjustment on domestic grain production will possibly work as the major method of market balancing, with grain stock adjustment as the subsidiary means, believes Gao Guoqing with the economic institute of Zhejiang University.

Some well-bred rice, fruit, vegetables, flowers, livestock and aquatic products planted in China are now sold well in the world market.

It is safe and cost-efficient that China participates in the world foodstuff trade, analysis indicated. But China should restrict its grain imports under 20 million tons every year, which is 10 percent of the world grain trade volume.

Importing grains from the world market will help China to build grain security by lowering domestic production cost. On the other hand, world grain exporters will also benefit from trade with China, a country with a population of 1.2 billion.

People's Daily Online ---