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Flexibility pledged for grain imports to ensure food security

Zhong Nan
Updated: Dec 6,2014 10:54 AM     China Daily

China will continue to increase the flexibility of its grain imports, national agricultural officials said on Dec 5.

It will buy adequate amounts of cereal and cultivated crops from global markets at cheaper prices to ensure grain supply security, they said.

The nation imported 72.49 million metric tons of cereal, including soybeans, rice, corn and wheat, between January and October, an increase of 19 percent year-on-year, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Bi Meijia, spokesman and chief economist at the Ministry of Agriculture, said China won’t depend solely on the international market to fill its rice bowls.

As a major grain importer, China has a huge influence on global grain prices.

Major purchases made by Chinese grain importers-usually State-owned giants such as China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp and China Grain Reserves Corp, are possibly pushing prices higher at the Chicago Board of Trade.

“Even though China’s grain imports have risen fast in recent years, the total volume is not significant in comparison with China’s annual grain output,” Bi said at a news conference.

“The main factor in buying more cereal from overseas this year is that the prices are much lower than those prevailing in domestic markets.”

Wheat, rice and corn, the nation’s three food staples, have comprised only 2.4 percent of the country’s grain imports this year.

Affected by farming conditions and high planting costs, China ordered 56.84 million tons of soybeans from the global market in the first 10 months of 2014.

In China, the term “grain” refers to cereal, beans and potatoes, while “food” includes grain, edible vegetable oils, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and marine products. The nation’s grain imports mainly cover wheat, rice, corn and soybeans.

Bi said China will continue to import cultivated crops from overseas.

It will also take flexible measures to import grain, in particular non-staple grain and related products, such as soybeans, feed, meat, edible oils and deep-processed grain. This will allow the nation to concentrate on the production of food staples.

China’s grain output rose by 0.9 percent year-on-year to 607.1 million tons in 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics on Dec 4.

Zeng Yande, director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Crop Production Department, said the ministry and the Ministry of Land and Resources have quickened the designation of permanent capital farmland nationwide.

Permanent capital farmland refers to land distributed to farmers on which no commercial building is allowed. Farmland occupied in the suburbs of large and medium-sized cities during urbanization, as well as that along highways, railways and country roads will be designated permanent capital farmland to ensure national grain security.

Zeng also outlined the government’s new agricultural priorities for next year.

They will include improving the production capacity of low-yield fields, optimizing the structure of grain imports, and offering more subsidies to family farms and farmers’ cooperatives.

The central government will not allow commercial production of genetically modified grain, even though it could be useful in increasing output and has received approval in several other nations, Zeng added.