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BEIJING, Feb 22 (Reuters) – China will put more pressure on its region to increase grain yields and increase support for its domestic seed industry as it strengthens its focus on food security in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, a major policy document released late. Sunday shows.
The annual rural policy blueprint, known as “No. 1 document ”, placing more emphasis on food security than in previous years, calls on all provinces to increase grain yields during the 2021-2025 period.
Beijing, which has long prioritized food security for its 1.4 billion people, has strengthened its focus on the issue since the pandemic hit major food exporting countries last year and raised concerns about the stability of food supplies.
“The uncertainty and instability of the external situation has increased significantly. Regarding the safety of the grain, we shouldn’t take it lightly for a second, ”Tang Renjian, the agriculture minister, said at a press conference on Monday, noting that China’s population is still increasing.
The document published by the State Council, China’s cabinet, noted that the communist party committee will also assume responsibility for food safety, in addition to local governments.
China will build a “national food security industrial belt”, he added, a plan also outlined during a major economic policy meeting in December.
The belt aims to connect all of the country’s main grain regions, officials said at the time.
The document also reaffirms new priorities for the seed sector, seen as key to food security, urging the faster implementation of major scientific projects in breeding. It urges “industrial applications of biological breeding,” to use a term that includes, among other things, genetically modified crops.
It also calls for stronger protection of intellectual property rights in breeding, and support for leading seed companies to establish commercial breeding systems.
“It is important to select a group of excellent companies to provide priority support,” Zhang Taolin, deputy agriculture minister, said at the briefing.
Shares of seed companies including Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co., Shandong Denghai Seed and Winall Hi-tech Seed Co. all gained about 4% on Monday.
China will also stabilize soybean production and develop vegetable oil crops including rapeseed and peanuts, he said, amid tight global vegetable oil supplies, and will diversify imports of its agricultural products.
He also called for building a modern animal husbandry system and protecting the production capacity of pigs.
Despite recent concerns about a spike in disease during winter, Tang said Monday that China’s herd of pigs will recover to 2017 levels in June, reaching numbers not seen since the African swine fever outbreak.
However, he said the country needed to find ways to make the herd more stable and prevent farmers from slaughtering pigs when prices fell.
Reporting by Hallie Gu, Dominique Patton, Judy Hua and Yew Lun Tian; Edited by Richard Pullin and Jacqueline Wong