Grain self-sufficiency bid
By AGNES CHEUNG
CHINA will not import more grain this year despite its falling production and unprecedented problems on the farms.
And the leadership has taken advantage of the convention of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the CPPCC to urge local leaders to toe the central line on 'putting agriculture as the key link'.
Minister of Agriculture Liu Jiang said yesterday China must not be dependent on the world market for grain as national self-sufficiency was of 'great significance for social stability and national security'.
Regional leaders echoed Beijing's call, pledging increased agricultural production to meet the target of self-sufficiency.
Grain production in China fell by 11.9 million tonnes to 444.6 million tonnes last year, while acreage dropped 107,200 hectares. Agriculture looks set to dominate NPC and CPPCC discussions.
Xinhua (the New China News Agency) yesterday reported leaders of major provinces such as Heilongjiang, Jilin, Sichuan, Shandong, Jiangsu and Hebei had vowed to intensify agricultural reforms and development.
Shandong Vice-Governor Chen Jianguo said the province had proposed a 10-year plan to modernise agriculture, hoping to reach the target of 42.5 million tonnes of grain by the year 2000.
The deputy party chief of Jiangsu, Xu Zhonglin, said the province would drop a few industrial projects to ensure a solution to the agricultural question.
Yang Chonghui, deputy party chief of Sichuan, said officials at all levels of government in the province would ensure that the farming policy was earnestly implemented.
He said it was an important mission to produce enough food to feed 112 million people in the province.
Rejecting calls by some Chinese and foreign experts to import hundreds of millions of tonnes of grain to make up the shortfall, the Agriculture Minister said China had to be able to produce enough food for its population of 1.2 billion.
'Imported grain has served in the past and will only serve in the future as a supplement or in lean years,' the minister said.
He said it was also 'unwise' for the country to be a big grain importer in view of its foreign exchange payment ability and transport difficulties.
Mr Liu argued the limited 200 million-tonne grain surplus available globally and its relatively high prices were also restraints on Chinese grain imports.
To solve the problem, the country aims to produce 450 million tonnes of grain this year.
On average, China imports about 10 million tonnes of grain annually.
China has also mapped out a detailed plan to produce 500 million tonnes of grain by the year 2000 to feed the estimated population of 1.3 billion.
Mei Fangquan, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences agricultural department of macro-research, predicted the country could be basically self-sufficient in grain by the year 2020.
By that time, the country's population would total 1.5 billion and its grain output would reach 625 million to 675 million tonnes, he said.