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Grain Production Set for New High

China's grain yield this year will "definitely" hit a record high despite shortages in the world, a senior agricultural official said.

It will be the fifth consecutive year of high grain yield. The output this year is likely to break the record of 512 million tons established in 1998. Last year, the yield was 501.5 million tons.

"Our wheat yield also achieved a new high this summer," the official from the Ministry of Agriculture told China Daily on Monday on condition of anonymity.

"Definitely this has been a great harvest year for China," he said.

Vice Premier Hui Liangyu recently said at an agricultural meeting that this year's grain yield will overtake that of 1998, but he did not give a figure.

However, the Xinhua News Agency quoted estimates from the State Grain Information Center, that this year's grain output should be 511.5 million tons.

Jiang Zhongyi, a senior researcher at the Agricultural Economic Research Centre, said: "We all share in the optimism that this year will see a new record."

But he was concerned grain prices may go down due to the rising supply.

"I have repeatedly urged governments at various levels to strictly implement minimum pricing protection for farmers," Jiang told China Daily on Monday.

"If market prices fall below the minimum purchasing price set by the government, the government should start to buy," he said.

This is an "essential step" to protect the interests of farmers, maintain their enthusiasm in planting crops and therefore ensure the country's grain security, he said.

The government recently announced the country's first mid to long-term grain security plan, targeting grain production of at least 500 million tons by 2010 and 540 million tons by 2020.

The good consecutive harvests have come after China scrapped agriculture taxes, raised subsidies and introduced minimum grain purchase prices to stimulate production, Jiang said.

But China, with a population of 1.3 billion, faces severe challenges in safeguarding grain security due to rising living standards, decreasing arable land, water shortages and climate change, he said.

Partly to meet these challenges, the National Development and Reform Commission recently announced it will raise the minimum purchasing price for wheat by as much as 15.3 percent from next year.

(China Daily November 25, 2008)

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