Bumper summer harvest expected

08:29, June 17, 2008

Farmers around the country have put more than half of their harvests into storage, and a bumper summer crop is expected, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday.

The major grain production areas are poised to reap a good crop for the fifth year in a row, maintaining the rising momentum in grain production, an unnamed ministry official said.

Summer crops, mostly cereals of rice and wheat, constitute 23 percent of the country's annual grain harvest, which has grown for four consecutive years, reaching 501.5 million tons last year, almost equal to China's annual consumption.

Han Jun, head of the rural section of the State Council Development Research Center, said: "The summer harvest, which comes amid global food crisis, reassures the world's most populous country of its domestic food safety."

Some agricultural experts here attributed the growth to the government's policies to boost grain production.

After harvesting wheat from his 0.2 hectares of land, farmer Jiao Xiqing from the village of Huawang in the major agricultural province of Shandong, seeded corn.

"The wheat, half a year of yield on my land, would be sold for at least 2,100 yuan ($300) at the state's grain purchase price. And I had another 240 yuan of grain subsidy on my bank account right before the harvest," he said.

Zeng Liying, deputy head of the State Administration of Grain, said the protective grain purchase price and subsidies have been the two effective measures in helping farmers to grow grain.

The government set the grain purchase price in 2004 to allow farmers to sell their crops to the government via designated companies at a "protective price" if the market price falls lower.

The government adjusted the price, taking inflation into consideration, Zeng said, adding it was raised by 2 percent to 7 percent in major production areas in May, based on the standard set in February. Agricultural authorities in grain production areas also raised the standard of agricultural subsidy, hoping to offset the rising cost of farming.

The central government promised at the beginning of the year to spend 562.5 billion yuan to support farmers, 130.7 billion yuan more than last year. In March, it said it will spend a further 25.3 billion yuan on boosting production.

The State Administration of Grains said price stability can be ensured, thanks to abundant grain reserves.

"China has abundant grain reserves standing at 150 million to 200 million tons," Premier Wen Jiabao said in April during a grain production inspection in Hebei province.

In May, during a trip to Henan province, he promised more support for farmers and agricultural provinces.

Han Jun, an agricultural expert, said China had not made any bulk imports of cereal during the past four years, and the country's self-sufficiency policy had contributed to the stability of the world's food market.

In May, China's consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, was up 7.7 percent year on year, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

Yin Jianfeng, an economist with the Institute of Finance and Banking at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said soaring grain and oil prices on the international market had contributed to the high inflation.

The price of wheat on the international market rose 112 percent last year, while that of corn rose 47 percent.

The United Nations World Food Program said the global food crisis is threatening UN-backed feeding programs for 20 million children, and driving 100 million people into poverty.

Source: China Daily/Xinhua

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