China plans boost in farm spending

Amid warnings that climate change may lead to a food crisis, China plans to increase spending on agricultural production by 20% this year, the Guardian reported. In his annual budget speech in Beijing, prime minister Wen Jiabao said 121 billion yuan (US$18 billion) more would be provided to help increase farm yields and raise rural incomes.


The government also pledged extra money for renewable energy and improved power efficiency. However, these benefits were outweighed by moves to increase overall domestic consumption and a likely emphasis on intensive agriculture. Wen said grain prices would be increased as an incentive to farmers.


China’s short-term aim is to ease the impact of the global economic crisis on rural people, who account for more than half of the country’s population of 1.3 billion. Rural Chinese are considered a potential source of social instability because their average income is only one-third that of city dwellers.


While China now has a high level of self-sufficiency and growth, the country’s top economic planning body warned this week that this would be difficult to maintain. The National Development and Reform Commission said in its annual report that it will be “very difficult to keep grain production growing steadily” after five years of bumper harvests. The commission pledged to keep overall output in the coming year at a steady 500 million tonnes, at least.


Satisfying the appetite of a population growing at an annual rate of 12 million is increasingly difficult as the impacts of climate change – such as droughts and floods — are felt. It will be a major task this year to keep the area of arable land above 120 million hectares, Wen said. The figure is the minimum that the government has long set for food security.


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