China - Record grain harvest
China will see a bumper harvest of grain this year despite frequent droughts and floods, with grain output expected to jump to a record high of more than 550 million metric tons, Vice Minister of Agriculture Chen Xiaohua said Thursday.
The strong harvest will mark eight consecutive years of growth for China's grain output.
Last year, China's grain output rose 2.9 percent year-on-year to reach 546.41 million metric tons, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
'This is a hard-won achievement for our country,' Chen said at a press conference, citing frequent natural disasters like lingering droughts in north China's wheat-growing areas in winter and spring this year.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), most of the grain output growth comes from major grain-producing regions in northeastern China.
The increases of grain purchase price and more subsidies by the government helped encourage farmers to grow more grains, Chen said.
The sound development of the agricultural industry has supported China's efforts to manage inflationary expectations, improve livelihoods and maintain steady economic growth, he said.
The output growth of eight years in a row is of great importance to guarantee supply and stabilize food prices, with increased domestic grain stocks and growing output globally, Chen said.
With more than 1.3 billion people or one fifth of the world population, China is one of the world's largest grain producers and consumers, thus ensuring food security remains one of the government's top priorities.
Concerning rising food prices, Chen noted the moderate price increases in recent years were driven up by rising costs, global liquidity excess and speculation, rather than supply-demand factors.
A survey by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner, showed the grain production costs for paddy, wheat and maize had risen 10.4 percent, 10 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively, from 2004 to 2010.
According to Chen, farm produce prices are expected to rise further in the future because of rising costs but the gains will be limited.
'Our goal is to keep the grain prices at reasonable and stable level by gradually raising the minimum grain purchase prices,' he said.
To boost grain output and further encourage farmers to grow more, the NDRC announced Wednesday that it would raise the minimum purchase prices for wheat from farmers in 2012 to boost grain output.
The minimum purchase price for white wheat in the country's major wheat-producing areas will be increased to 102 yuan (16 U.S. dollars) per 50 kg, 7 yuan higher than the 2011 price, according to NDRC.
When asked about China's maize consumption, Chen said the country is working hard to meet rising maize demands through domestic production, as well as imports.
'To satisfy domestic demands for maize, the primary way is to increase our own production domestically,' he added.
Chen said China's maize imports fell 26.2 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of this year. According to customs data, the country imported more than 1 million metric tons of maize from the United States over the past two years.
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