China is intensifying its focus on food security in the main policy blueprint

BEIJING: A key policy document released late Sunday showed that China will exert greater pressure on its regions to boost grain yields and intensify support for the domestic seed industry while strengthening its focus on food security after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual rural policy blueprint, known as the “First Document,” places more emphasis on food security than in previous years, calling for all provinces to improve grain yields over the period 2021-2025.

Beijing, which has prioritized food security for its 1.4 billion population, has strengthened its focus on the issue since the epidemic hit major food exporting countries last year and raised concerns about the stability of food supplies.

The uncertainty and instability in the external situation has increased significantly. “As far as grain security is concerned, we shouldn’t take it lightly for a moment,” Agriculture Minister Tang Rengyan said at a press briefing on Monday, noting that China’s population is still higher.

The document, released by the State Council, the Chinese Cabinet, indicated that the Communist Party committees would also take responsibility for food security, in addition to the local government.

She added that China would build a “national belt for the food security industry,” a plan that was also outlined during the main economic policy meeting in December.

Officials said at the time that the belt was intended to connect all major grain regions in the country.

The document also emphasized the new priority of the seed sector, which is seen as a key to food security, and urged a faster implementation of major scientific projects in the field of breeding. He urged the “industrial application of biological breeding,” using a term that included, among others, genetically modified crops.

He also called for stronger protection of intellectual property rights in breeding, and support for leading seed companies to establish commercial breeding systems.

“It is necessary to select a group of superior companies to give priority to support,” said Zhang Taolin, vice minister of agriculture, at the press conference.

Seed stocks including Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co, Shandong Denghai Seed and Winall Hi-tech Seed Co rose nearly 4% on Monday.

She added that China will also work to stabilize soybean production and develop edible oilseed crops, including rapeseed and peanuts, amid tightening global supplies of edible oils, and diversify its imports of agricultural products.

He also called for building a modern animal husbandry system and protecting the production capacity of pigs.

Despite recent concerns about the spread of the disease during the winter, Tang said Monday that the herd of pigs in China will recover to 2017 levels by June, reaching numbers not seen since the outbreak of African Swine Fever.

However, he said the country needs to find ways to make the herd more stable and prevent farmers from slaughtering seed when prices drop.

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