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China's Agricultural Trade Deficit Hits US$3.66 Bln in Q1

China reported a deficit of US$3.66 billion in agricultural product trade in the first quarter, against a surplus of US$460 million for the same period of 2007.

Exports reached US$9.35 billion in the first three months, up 9.6 percent year on year, while imports surged 61 percent to US$13.01 billion, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Agriculture Thursday.

The ministry did not give any explanation for the deficit, however, according to the statistics, a decrease in grain exports and soaring pork and oilseed imports could be the reasons.

As a net exporter of grain, the country exported 1.04 million tons of grain in the first quarter, shrinking 72.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the country's pork imports nearly quadrupled and oilseed imports surged 36.8 percent from a year earlier.

The Ministry of Commerce last week issued a notice calling for tightened control on grain and fertilizer exports, faster imports of commodities such as edible oil and meat, and expanding storage of farm produce to ensure domestic supply.

This was the Chinese government's latest efforts to stabilize agricultural production and food supplies.

Higher prices for meat, eggs and vegetables pushed the first-quarter inflation to an 8-percent year-on-year increase. The government set a target of about 4.8 percent for the inflation index increase this year.

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2008)

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