Wen Jiabao

Concern over dependence on imports

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am


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China must be cautious of its dependence on the global market for agricultural products, as demand and farming costs keep growing while resources become scarcer in the domestic market, Premier Wen Jiabao said last month in remarks published yesterday in the Qiushi Journal.

'For a country with a population of more than one billion, we could never give up the doctrine of handling our food problem basically on our own,' he said in a speech at a rural work conference in Beijing.

He said the government needed a better strategy for exporting and importing farm produce, and that it should take the initiative in the international market, according to the article.

China has witnessed a widening trade deficit in agriculture since entering the World Trade Organisation in 2001, triggering concerns that the nation could grow more dependent on other countries to feed its people, and that farmers are not benefiting from growing domestic demand.

Official data indicates that the import of agricultural products grew sixfold in the first decade of the 21st century, while agricultural exports merely tripled.

According to remarks made by Agriculture Minister Han Changfu last month and published in the Farmers' Daily, China is now the second-largest importer of agricultural products, with the bulk being oil crops and cotton.

By 2010, only 22 per cent of soya beans in the mainland market were domestically produced. Growing imports of cotton and wheat in recent years have triggered worries that the same thing could happen to these key crops.

'Keeping a balance between the demand and supply of agricultural products in the future is getting more difficult,' Wen said.