China’s plan to add farmland seen boosting grain output 8 percent by 2020

BEIJING, Jan 24 (Reuters) – China aims to boost grain production eight percent by 2020 over last year’s figure, as a plan to create millions of acres of high-quality farmland will swell crop yields, a farm ministry official said on Friday.

China produced 602 million tonnes of grain last year, the culmination of a decade of steady rises, but its farms must grapple with limited water resources and severe pollution as demand grows rapidly from a population of nearly 1.4 billion.

Food demand grows more than five million tonnes annually, Zeng Yande, director of the planting management bureau at the ministry of agriculture, told reporters.

“Demand is this big, and arable land is only so much, we must guarantee supply,” he said, adding that China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization trends are fuelling demand.

Zeng said the plan, which aims to establish 165 million acres of high quality farmland, would hike grain production by an extra 50 million tonnes by 2020, or 8.3 percent more than last year’s output.

He gave little detail on how the new farmland would be developed or upgraded, though the government has said it wants to rejuvenate heavily polluted land and improve water use.

China will also step up yields by using new types of seeds and trying to limit the impact of natural disasters, Zeng said.

Food security is among China’s top priorities this year, and Zeng reiterated Beijing’s frequently stated goal of 95 percent self-sufficiency in key crops.

But China is also seeing imports rise as policies to support farmers boost domestic prices of grain.

Its cereal imports last year were up roughly seven percent on an annual basis, at close to 15 million tonnes.

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