Smooth spring plowing yields bumper harvest
Updated: April 21, 2023 08:46 China Daily

Spring plowing has gone ahead smoothly and the supply of farm produce has been ample in the first quarter of this year, official data released on Thursday by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs showed.

Rural economic data showed the potential for a bumper harvest this summer, an agricultural official said on Thursday, this year's Grain Rain, the last solar term in spring.

"Grain Rain is a critical juncture for spring plowing," said Zeng Yande, director of the ministry's development and planning department.

Underperforming winter wheat crops accounted for less than 10 percent of the harvest this year, lower than last year, he told a news conference held by the State Council Information Office in Beijing.

The intended food growing area — an indicator of farmers' confidence in farming profits — was about 118 million hectares and increased for the fourth consecutive year, he said.

By the end of March, there were 43 million fertile swine, higher than the 41 million bench mark for maintaining adequate supply, and the pork output was 15.9 million metric tons during the first quarter, up 1.9 percent year-on-year, Zeng said, citing figures from the National Bureau of Statistics.

"The market supply is abundant, and pork production is developing with stability," he said.

The output for beef and mutton, milk and aquatic products increased 3.6 percent, 8.5 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively, in the first three months of this year. The growing areas for vegetables in April were up more than 73,000 hectares year-on-year, Zeng said.

By the end of March, 21.5 billion yuan ($3.12 billion) in small-sum loans was given to 485,000 people who had recently escaped absolute poverty, and more than 30 million such rural residents have departed for towns and cities for jobs, he said.

The purchasing managers' index for major agricultural companies was 55.4 percent. A PMI above 50 represents an expansion when compared with the previous month.

The average disposable income for rural residents in the first quarter was 6,131 yuan, up 4.8 percent from last quarter. That is 2.1 percentage points higher than the increase for the average urban disposable income, Zeng said.

The total volume of imports and exports of farm produce was $83.3 billion, up 11.6 percent year-on-year. The export and import volume was $23.5 billion and $59.8 billion, respectively.

While speaking at the event, Pan Wenbo, director of the ministry's planting administration department, said the smooth start of the year matters for food security for the whole year.

"Grain and oil crops planted in spring account for more than half of a year," Pang said.

He said efforts aimed at raising the self-sufficiency rate for soybean are an important part of securing food supply, and the ministry will strive to expand the growing area for soybean and other oil crops by more than 666,700 hectares this year.

A separate report released on Thursday at the 2023 China Agricultural Outlook Conference said that the growth of grain output is projected to outpace that of consumer demand over the coming decade.

The event was held by the Agricultural Information Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

The grain-growing area and the output per hectare are set to increase by an annual rate of 0.3 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, according to the China Agricultural Outlook 2023-32, which is compiled by the Market Early Warning Expert Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

It said grain output per hectare is expected to reach 6.34 tons by 2032, and the total output will top 767 million tons by then.

The increased productivity is the major contributor to more food yield, it said.

In comparison, the country's food demand will grow by 0.6 percent annually due to a structural upgrade of consumption behavior and other factors, and reach a total of 867 million tons in a decade, the report said.

"The tight but balanced supply of food will become a long-term phenomenon, but the balance pressure will be eased," it said.

The report forecast that China's annual rice yield will stabilize at 210 million tons and be more competitive in the global market.

The wheat output will rise 0.5 percent annually and hit 143.9 million tons by 2032, higher than the demand of 141.3 million tons. China will import 4.3 percent less wheat every year over the next decade, and the imported wheat will decrease to 6.02 million tons, the report said.

With an expected annual output of 328 million tons in a decade, the self-sufficiency rate of corn will reach 96.9 percent by 2032, and meanwhile, imports are expected to decline to 6.85 million tons a year, it said.

The self-sufficiency rate for soybean and other oil crops will also see a notable increase.

The report said that by 2032, the growing area for soybean will reach 13.39 million hectares, a 40.7 percent increase from the 2020-22 period. Output per hectare will increase 3.4 percent annually while the gross yield will grow 7 percent annually, reaching 36.75 million tons.

The output of other oil crops will reach 46.68 million tons in 2032, a 29 percent increase from a decade earlier.

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