CHINESE Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin said on Monday that China had set the overall grain output for 2004 at 455 million tonnes with the acreage for grain crops not less than 100 million hectares.
The target indicates Chinas renewed stress on food security following years of decrease in grain output due to little profitability of grain production.
Chinas grain output dipped from a record high of 512 million tonnes in 1998 to 435 million tonnes in 2003.
Addressing a national telecast meeting on grain production for this year, the minister called for efforts to raise both grain output and farmers economic returns on grain production by increasing the acreage for grain crops, using more techniques and improved varieties of grain, and improving farming infrastructure.
The ministry said the total acreage for grain crops was expected to grow by 1.6 million hectares in 2004 over the previous year.
Abrupt grain price increases caused by a rumoured grain shortage in late 2003 prompted the Chinese government to improve the countrys food production capacity as well as food security.
Ma Xiaohe, director of the Institute of Industrial Development under the State Development and Reform Commission, said it was the highest priority to reserve grain production capacity.
In order to accomplish that, efforts must be made to reserve enough arable cropland to curb the depletion of farmland by industrial development projects, increase investment in projects to improve farmland productivity and boost the farmers enthusiasm for grain production.
Chinas arable cropland has shrunk by 667,000 hectares each year on average over the past seven years, partly due to local governments requisitioning croplands to cash in on a nationwide real estate and development boom. People's Daily
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