Mainland farmers will lose about three billion yuan (HK$2.81 billion) in income this year because of higher grain imports in the wake of the country's entry to the World Trade Organisation, according to one of the Government's top agriculture specialists. Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the State Council Development Research Centre, said grain imports this year would reach 40 million tonnes, equivalent to 9 per cent of domestic production. 'This will affect the income of at least 25 million farmers. Based on last year's prices, that will cut their income by an average of 100 to 130 yuan,' he told the China Economic Times. That works out to a loss of 2.5 billion to 3.25 billion yuan. 'This is something we should not take lightly. We [need] to take a new view of food security and grain self-sufficiency,' he said. Mr Chen is one of the few to speak out in public on behalf of grain farmers, who are the biggest losers in China's WTO entry, which provides for lower tariffs on imports and reduced subsidies on exports. The average farmer earns about 2,200 yuan a year. The income of those living on poor or marginal land and dependent on grain is substantially lower than that, so a cut of 100 to 130 yuan is significant. Mr Chen included in his forecast imports of corn, rice, wheat, soya bean and soya bean oil. WTO entry and the expectation of cheaper imports have already hit grain farmers, especially those in the northeast, because many of their customers in south and southeast China are not signing contracts this year. Corn was the most affected because of a rapid increase in output in the past 10 years, he said. 'We say that WTO entry brings more good than bad. But we cannot say that for grain-producing areas. The impact varies according to areas, crops and people. That is why it is so important to adjust the policy for different areas. This is done by the major grain importers and exporters, like Japan, the United States and the European Union,' Mr Chen said. 'WTO will bring more opportunities for farmers in coastal areas but will put more pressure on those in the interior. This is why we must take measures to prevent the gap between them getting wider.'