AGRICULTURE policy over the next six years will focus on central provinces. The strategy is aimed at boasting annual grain output to 500 million tonnes by the year 2000, Xinhua (the New China News Agency) said yesterday. At present, grain output stands at 450 million tonnes. Under the plan, investment will be made available to develop farming in western China and farmers in eastern provinces will be required to increase their harvests. But Xinhua said the focus of the plan would be on central China, covering provinces like Hunan, Hubei and Henan. A Ministry of Agriculture official was quoted as saying the state and local governments in the central regions would invest 160 billion yuan (HK$148.8 billion) over six years. Major grain production centres, like the cities of Yueyang and Jingmen, will benefit most from the extra cash that will mainly cover new irrigation facilities, research and application of new technologies and modern granaries. In Yueyang, in Hunan province, construction of the new facilities is already under way and the municipal Government has invested more than 30 million yuan over the past few years to improve fertility. By 2000, Xinhua said grain output in central China alone should reach 216.2 million tonnes or 43 per cent of the country's total. Fifty-two per cent of the 50 million tonnes of new supplies will come from the central provinces. To reach the targets, Xinhua said specific orders had been issued requiring local officials to ensure the amount of high-yield farmland stayed above certain levels. In the provinces of Hunan and Henan, officials who did not meet the targets would face 'administrative discipline', the agency said. As much as 80 per cent of farmland was now under government protection, it said.