China’s food security at core of Beijing’s new five-year rural-revitalisation plan
- Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs says China must ‘speed up innovations’ in the seed industry to help feed the nation’s 1.4 billion people
- Natural disasters, geopolitical disputes and global food-trade disruptions amid the pandemic have forced Beijing to reassess its approach to food security
China is placing greater emphasis on food security and self-reliance to feed its 1.4 billion people, according to its annual blueprint for rural policies amid the pandemic, with an emphasis on utilising new agricultural technologies.
The new plan puts a comprehensive revitalisation of the countryside at the heart of the national agricultural strategy in the next five years.
The statement, known as the central government’s “No 1 document”, has been devoted to rural issues since 2003.
Beijing also reaffirmed in the document that all local Communist Party members must step up to shoulder the political responsibility to ensure adequate food output, just as local governments do.
“The uncertainty and instability of the external situation have increased significantly; we must not take the food-security issue lightly for even a moment,” said Tang Renjian, China’s minister of agricultural and rural affairs, at a press conference on Monday. “We must raise the safety factor as high as possible, and produce and store more grains as much as possible.”
The “No 1 document” said the country will improve its subsidy policy for corn and soybean producers; encourage the planting of high-quality animal feed crops such as silage corn; stabilise soybean production; and protect basic pork-production capacity while diversifying its sources for agricultural imports.
Given China’s limited land and water resources, Tang said the fundamental method to increase grain production is to rely on modern agricultural technology and equipment to improve yields.
“[China] should adhere to self-reliance in agricultural technologies and fight for a turnaround in the seed industry,” he said.
The ministry will also encourage the use of modern biological breeding, gene editing, synthetic biology and artificial intelligence technologies to create new, high-yield seeds for key crops.
“Now, the global breeding industry is in the process of a scientific and technological revolution,” Zhang Taolin, vice-minister of agriculture, said on Monday. “We need to seize the opportunity and speed up innovations.”
Analysts said the new plan further highlights the importance that Beijing is placing on agricultural and technological self-reliance.
“Technologies and industries related to breeding are likely to become an important field of new investment in the agricultural sector in the future,” analysts with Guotai Junan Securities wrote in a note on Monday.
“Biological breeding is expected to continue to be protected by the policies, and the commercialisation of genetically modified corn is likely to advance steadily,” analysts at Citic Securities said in a note on Monday.
“If we want to rejuvenate the nation, we must revitalise the countryside,” the document says, calling on the whole country to help make farming “efficient”, the countryside “good for living”, and the country’s peasants “rich”.
China’s food security requires local Communist Party members to step up, new agricultural minister says
The document encourages the country’s financial institutions to establish special internal departments to support the rural-revitalisation project.
Additionally, Beijing is expected to officially launch a new central government rural-revitalisation bureau on Thursday, replacing the State Council leading group office on poverty alleviation and development, according to the state-run newspaper The Beijing News.