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Food Prices Stable After Earthquake

Food prices have remained stable throughout China despite the devastation of the 8-magnitude earthquake that jolted Sichuan Province on May 12, official figures show.

Statistics from the Xinhua News Agency's price monitoring system show grain and edible oil prices have changed little over the past week. And figures from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) show pork prices have also remained stable since the quake.

In addition, vegetable prices have continued declining with the harvest season under way in major production regions. Rice prices are the same as last weeks', while the national average price of flour has dipped slightly.

Supplemented by other regions, the food supply has recovered in Sichuan and other quake-affected areas, while food prices in these areas are stable.

The Gansu commerce department's monitoring system shows the supply of 26 major food varieties is stable in the province, while the local government has stepped in to ensure prices of daily necessities in quake-affected areas don't rise because of shortages.

The NDRC said yesterday Sichuan and Gansu planning departments have penalized enterprises that tried to raise water and tent prices, and have asked them to keep them at pre-quake levels.

Agriculture ministry officials had said earlier the quake wouldn't substantially impact China's general annual agricultural output.

Sichuan's planting area accounts for 6.1 percent of the country's, while its grain output accounts for 6 percent of China's. It's also the No 1 pork-producing province in China, where more than 60 million pigs are raised annually.

The quake destroyed more than 10,000 hectares of wheat and rapeseed fields, and 20,000 hectares of vegetable plantation in Sichuan. It will be difficult for the province's agriculture to recover, because the quake damaged agricultural infrastructure, Vice Minister of Agriculture Wei Chao'an said.

"The agriculture ministry will do its best to ensure the harvest of grain and the production of edible oil this summer and for the rest of the year is stable," Wei said. "We will try to compensate for the losses in quake-affected areas using supplies from other areas."

China Grain Reserve Corporation has transported more than 3,000 tons of rice and 10 tons of grain from national reserves, in addition to 140,000 tons of edible oil, to devastated areas.

The ministry's chief economist Zhang Yuxiang said the past four years' grain harvests have ensured an abundance in the State reserve would prevent any supply problems.

"So, there will be no major change in the structure of agricultural products' supply and demand," Zhang said.

(China Daily May 22, 2008)

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