China steps up focus on food security in major policy document

"National food security industry belt" aims to connect all of the country's key grain areas

  
A woman takes pictures of street food in a historic part of Beijing as China celebrates Lunar New Year of the Ox following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), China, February 14, 2021.

A woman takes pictures of street food in a historic part of Beijing as China celebrates Lunar New Year of the Ox following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), China, February 14, 2021.

Reuters/Thomas Peter

BEIJING - China will put greater pressure on its regions to boost grain yields and step up support for its domestic seed industry as it strengthens its focus on food security after the COVID-19 pandemic, a major policy document issued late Sunday showed.

The annual rural policy blueprint, known as the "No. 1 document", placed greater emphasis on food security than in prior years, calling for all provinces to improve grain yields during the 2021-2025 period.

Beijing, which has long prioritised food security for its population of 1.4 billion, has strengthened its focus on the issue since the pandemic hit major food exporting nations last year and raised concerns about stability of food supplies.

"The uncertainty and instability of the external situation has increased significantly. On grain security, we must not take it lightly for one moment," Tang Renjian, agriculture minister, told a media briefing on Monday, noting that China's population was still edging higher.

The document, published by the State Council, China's cabinet, noted that Communist party committees will also shoulder responsibility for food security, in addition to local government.

China will build a "national food security industry belt", it added, a plan also outlined during a key economic policy meeting in December.

The belt aims to connect all of the country's key grain areas, officials said at the time.

The document also reiterated the new priority on the seed sector, seen as key to food security, urging faster implementation of major scientific projects in breeding. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2IZ059

It urged the "industrial application of biological breeding," using a term that encompasses genetically modified crops among others.

It also called for stronger protection of intellectual property rights in breeding, and support for leading seed companies to establish commercial breeding systems.

China will also stabilise production of soybeans and develop edible oilseed crops including rapeseed and peanut, it said, amid tighter global supplies of edible oils, and will diversify its imports of agricultural products.

(Reporting by Hallie Gu, Dominique Patton, Judy Hua and Yew Lun Tian; editing by Mark Heinrich, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Richard Pullin)

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