CHINA'S bid to bring inflation down to 15 per cent this year is 'well within reach', according to a Beijing Government research institute. That prediction contradicts forecasts by foreign economists, who said China faced a herculean task reining in last year's 24.1 per cent price spiral. But the Investment Institute under the conservative State Planning Commission said not only was the target feasible, but inflation might go down to 13 per cent if there were another bumper harvest this year. And the institute's research indicated food prices would fall in the coming three months, easing pressure on the economy. Cheaper food would be available because the Government, anticipating the situation late last year, pushed for increased farm output. A victory over inflation would be a big boost to the Government, which set the 15 per cent target last March. Senior leaders, who fear soaring prices could trigger social unrest, have also repeatedly ordered local cadres to freeze prices and reduce spending on fixed assets. State banks have been under orders to strictly control lending, ensuring loans are used on the projects for which they are intended. And provincial governors were made personally responsible for the food supply under their control as an added guarantee the central Government's production targets were met. According to a report from the semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency yesterday, the institute's researchers expected the cheaper food to cut the consumer price index by between two and three percentage points by September. They estimated the cost of living in areas including food, clothing and health care would go up by a total of only five to six percentage points this year. They predicted clothing prices would rise two percentage points, while housing would only account for a 1.5-percentage point price increase in 1995. Medical care would be more expensive but the researchers estimated its effect on inflation to be about one percentage point. Although they calculated a bumper harvest would absorb part of the inflationary rises, there was no mention of other factors, like the impact of unstable weather on production. It was reported in the China Daily yesterday the country might face its worst flooding since 1954 because of global warming and heavy rainfall. Foreign economists have been sceptical of the 15 per cent inflation target, pointing to recent government statistics showing an unsteady trend in prices. Some foreign agriculture experts even predicted that, because of a steady decline in available farmland, China will become more reliant on foreign imports to feed its 1.2 billion people. Inflation dropped only 0.4 percentage point in May to 20.3 per cent - still much higher than the official target. Growth of fixed assets investment did show a continued slowdown last month, raising hopes China might have succeeded in controlling runaway spending on construction projects. However, in 21 of 35 major cities, inflation went up last month, jumping to 22.8 per cent in Shanghai and reaching 20.2 per cent in Beijing.