The country will likely import more food from overseas as it struggles to meet its target of producing virtually all the grain it consumes, analysts said.
An annual top-level meeting on agriculture last week said that "moderate imports'' would form part of the national food security strategy.
The government has ordered that resources are allocated to ensure adequate supplies of cereals, implying the mainland will rely more on the global market for non-staple foods.
Ma Wenfeng , an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultants, said the mainland's food market was already fairly open to foreign imports, particularly the sale of soya beans which have been dominated by foreign companies. The new strategy suggested more imports of non-staple foods, he said.
The government issued a policy document on food security in 1996, saying the mainland should produce at least 95 per cent of its grain. The guideline has remained unchanged since.
Agriculture Minister Han Changfu said after last week's meeting the mainland would stick with this goal for the three staple foods - rice, wheat and corn. The country should be producing all of its rice and wheat, he said.
The National Bureau of Statistics said total grain output was nearly 602 million tonnes last year, up 2 per cent up over 2012. It was the tenth consecutive year of increased grain production, but imports have soared.
Customs data shows the mainland imported more than 72 million tonnes of grain in 2012, suggesting the nation was producing only 88 per cent of the grain it needed. An estimated 80 million tonnes of grain were imported last year, Ma said.
Some experts have complained that the food shortfalls have been made worse by the country's reluctance to embrace genetically modified food, which can increase farm productivity. Quarantine authorities refused 545,000 tonnes of US corn in November and last month because shipments contained an unapproved GMO variety.
Yuan Chongfa , vice-president of the China City Development Academy, said the mainland must ensure it has more than 120 million hectares of farmland to ensure food supplies, as the new leadership pushes forward a massive urbanisation drive.
"It's not bad to set the level a bit high because even if there is enough space to be self-sufficient, we have to consider our children and grandchildren's needs," he said.
Ding Li, a senior researcher in agriculture at the Anbound think tank in Beijing, said it was time to drop the production of some food, such as chickens and pigs, to grow more basic crops. Ding said the key to ensuring food security was to build a modern, safe and efficient agricultural industry.
Ma, the analyst at Beijing Orient, said it was also crucial to improve farm productivity.
Germany and France each produced an average of more than 7,000kg of wheat per hectare last year, while the mainland produced about 5,000kg, Ma said. The United States harvested nearly 10,500kg of rice per hectare last year, while the mainland produced about 6,700kg.
"Our plots of land are so small and scattered, so it's very hard to improve productivity," he said.