Top-level call for grain supplies shake-up

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 November, 1997, 12:00am

A senior official has called for a shake-up of local departments responsible for managing the mainland's grain supply.

Separating government and business interests was the key, said Professor Chen Xiwen, director of the Department of Rural Development under the State Council's Development Research Centre.

Officials were eroding the benefits of agricultural policies by pocketing government payments allocated to stabilise grain prices for farmers, he said.

Mismanagement of funds and heavy debts had worsened the problem, he added.

In the past, officials were targeted by Professor Chen for misusing arable land for industrial and commercial projects that brought faster returns but shrank available farmland.

He said an efficient grain supply revolved around a system that exported commodities from rural, northern areas to countries like Japan and Korea and imported grain through southern provinces that had been designated as distribution and management hubs.

Mainland per capita food consumption levels were almost half those of North America, he said during an interview in Hong Kong.

Professor Chen also said that although increased food consumption was generally associated with better living standards and higher gross domestic product levels, this was not the case on the mainland.

He said that even with higher incomes, Asians in general continued to have diets with relatively less meat than their Western counterparts.

More people were also eating poultry in preference to the traditional favourite, pork.

Chickens were more cost efficient to raise as they fed on less grain and had less fat that was wasted.

Mr Chen said heavy drinking habits were an overlooked factor in mainland grain supply.

It was forecast that this year mainland drinkers would consume 30 million tonnes of beer and spirits but the growing popularity of wine should eventually ease pressure on grain supplies.


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