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Jilin Province to Boost Grain Output

Jilin Province has started an ambitious program to increase its grain output by more than 5 billion kg to 30 billion kg within five years.

If it succeeds, Jilin, in northeast China, will become the country's fifth-biggest grain producer after Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu and Heilongjiang provinces.

The program was approved in late June by the State Council, China's cabinet, which sees it as a national security issue.

Costing 26 billion yuan (US$3.78 billion), the program includes 10 major projects such as water diversion, expansion of the irrigated area of Jilin's central and western regions, further mechanization of farming, cultivating and popularizing improved grain varieties and disseminating advanced farming techniques.

The funds will come from special government allocations and subsidies, bank loans and funds raised by Jilin Province, according to Vice Governor Wang Shouchen, who is in charge of agricultural affairs.

Wang says Jilin made a breakthrough by using a multi-faceted approach that included economic and social development, environmental protection and conservation, rather than just targeting higher production.

Jilin will have another 200,000 hectares of arable land under the plan. It will also upgrade 1.33 million hectares of low- to medium-yield farmland and improve 2 million hectares of high-yield farmland. It has 5.33 million hectares of farmland and is capable of producing 25 billion kg of grain annually.

Situated deep in the Songliao Plain, which is formed by the Songhua, Nenjiang and Liaohe rivers, Jilin boasts fertile farmland and is one of the world's top three corn production belts.

Governor Han Changfu is upbeat about fulfiling the grain plan, since Jilin has ample land, fertile soil and a strong scientific base in agriculture.

"With the new program, Jilin, which boasts many natural advantages, will better use its grain production potential," Han says.

"Through improved water conservation, land reclamation, cultivation of high-grade farmland, promotion of mechanization and popularization of new grain varieties, Jilin can see its grain production capacity rise from the current 25 billion kg to 30 billion kg in five years or a bit more," he says.

Industrialization and urbanization has pushed up grain demand in China, while land and water shortages, as well as climate change, have hurt grain production.

The State Council has also approved a plan to ensure China would be 95 percent self-sufficient in grain over the next 12 years after hearing how farmers faced tremendous challenges in increasing output.

The State Council agreed China faced grim challenges in grain security. It approved a plan to ensure grain output exceeds 500 billion kg by 2010 and 540 billion kg by 2020.

This year, the country could see the fifth consecutive bumper harvest of summer grain, the first such run of harvests since 1949, the Ministry of Agriculture has said.

Summer crops, which usually account for about 23 percent of the total annual grain output, would surpass the 115.34 billion kg produced in 2007, the ministry said.

(China Daily July 14, 2008)

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