Food se­cu­rity more than just quan­tity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - LI CHENG­GANG The au­thor is a commentator with China Eco­nomic Times.

im­ports. As a re­sult, the coun­try’s self-suf­fi­ciency rate for ma­jor grains other than beans re­mains higher than 97 per­cent.

In fact, the core of en­sur­ing food se­cu­rity is to re­al­ize the coun­try’s suf­fi­cient and sta­ble grain sup­ply. To reach that goal, a coun­try can rely on both its own pro­duc­tion and trade; but con­sid­er­ing China’s huge pop­u­la­tion base, de­ci­sion-mak­ers can­not take risks in this re­gard and it is much bet­ter to seize the ini­tia­tive in grain sup­ply. There­fore, high­light­ing do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion for suf­fi­cient grain sup­ply is a choice based on re­al­ity.

How­ever, fast ur­ban­iza­tion and in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion have re­sulted in in­creas­ingly prom­i­nent con­tra­dic­tions be­tween ur­ban con­struc­tion and preser­va­tion of arable land. Some lo­cal gov­ern­ments are us­ing the ur­ban­iza­tion drive for land ac­qui­si­tion, threat­en­ing to re­duce the coun­try’s arable land to be­low the govern­ment’s red line of 1.8 bil­lion mu (1.2 mil­lion square kilo­me­ters).

Since the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in 1949, the coun­try’s grain out­put has in­creased by four times, but its pop­u­la­tion has grown about 1.4 times since 1953, while the area of arable land has con­tin­ued to de­cline. Ad­vances in agri­cul­tural science and tech­nol­ogy have made the grain yield per unit area in­crease four­fold, but be­cause of the in­creas­ing tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, the div­i­dend that can be tapped through tech­no­log­i­cal progress is lim­ited. With­out new tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs, the risks to grain self­suf­fi­ciency will grow. There­fore, China’s em­pha­sis on food se­cu­rity and striv­ing for self-reliance in grain pro­duc­tion means pro­tect­ing the ex­ist­ing arable land.

By em­pha­siz­ing food se­cu­rity the cen­tral eco­nomic work con­fer­ence pro­posed achiev­ing ab­so­lute self-suf­fi­ciency in the sup­ply of rice and wheat and ba­sic self-suf­fi­ciency in corn.

The meet­ing also de­manded re­lated au­thor­i­ties fo­cus on the qual­ity of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, food safety, su­per­vi­sion of pro­duc­tion sources and the whole­sale process. By in­clud­ing qual­ity of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts into the cat­e­gory of food se­cu­rity, the govern­ment has em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of food safety and food qual­ity to peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.

That means to en­sure grain self-suf­fi­ciency, China should not only guar­an­tee the amount of arable land, but also at­tach great im­por­tance to land pol­lu­tion is­sues.

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