Li Chenggui: China must have control over its own food supply

By Li Chenggui Updated: 2022-07-08


Li Chenggui, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and president of the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences [Photo/]

It is China's top priority of national governance to ensure its food security without any slack.

I. Firm up confidence and cherish hard-won historic achievements

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, the Central Committee of the CPC with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has attached great importance to issues related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers, continued to strengthen the fulfillment of responsibilities in ensuring food security, and made intensified efforts to build a food security guarantee system at a higher level and with higher quality, efficiency and sustainability. In terms of price policies, China has optimized the design of its policy mechanisms and enhanced the level of policy support for different food varieties. It has rolled out an array of measures on investment, incentives and subsidies to implement a food crop production strategy based on farmland management and technological application, developed 800 million mu (53.33 million hectares) of high-standard farmland, and significantly expanded the cultivation of high-quality seeds and the use of agricultural machinery. So far, China's per capita share of grain has reached 483 kilograms, exceeding the internationally recognized security line of 400 kg. There are sufficient rice and wheat reserves for the country to guarantee its domestic consumption for over a year. It is where the country's confidence is grounded in independently feeding its population.

There are a wide range of foods available for both rural and urban residents on their dinner tables and the structure of their food consumption has been upgraded significantly. Statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that the per capita food consumption of the Chinese people is on the same level as people in Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) by and large. China has achieved bumper harvests with higher quality and more reasonable food structure for consecutive years. The remarkable achievements made by China have proven to the world its self-reliant capabilities to secure food supplies, further consolidating the determination of the Chinese people to feed themselves and representing the leap-frog development of Chinese material progress.

II. Remain self-reliant and constantly improve China's comprehensive grain production capabilities

1. Resolutely implement national food security strategy

The combined impacts of profound changes unseen in a century, the once-in-a-century COVID-19 pandemic, and setbacks in globalization are causing food prices to rise and stoking great difficulties in securing grain. It has been proved that China's national strategy on food security, which features self-sufficiency, basis on domestic grain production, guaranteed food production capacity, moderate imports and technological support, is a correct choice suitable for China's conditions to respond to risks and challenges. The CPC has always followed an independent path as it has pressed forward by stressing reliance on our own efforts to drive the nation's development, and firmly kept the country's fate in our own hands. The implementation of the national food security strategy is a concrete measure for the Party to press ahead with valuable historical experience.

2. Properly handle relations between government and market and between quantity and structure

The realization of functions is decided by the issue of structure. The matter of food is a quantity issue and also a structural one. China has introduced a basic food security policy of "ensuring basic self-sufficiency of grain and absolute security of staple food", which calls for intensified efforts to make breakthroughs in the structure of food production and ensure a reliable source of staple food supplies. As food supplies are a key link in national security, it is of great importance to underscore food security and ensure sufficient food supplies. The establishment of the "Greater Food" approach requires people to have a big-picture mindset in the development of agricultural production and the utilization of resources. The country has followed a realistic, precise and coordinated development path, deepened supply-side structural reform in the agricultural sector and further enhanced the overall  competitiveness of the agricultural industry. Right now, China has further strengthened the notion that both CPC committees and governments are responsible for food security, and clarified the responsibilities of grain-producing areas, grain-consumption areas and production-consumption balance areas, fully demonstrating its institutional strengths in resource mobilization. The government should adopt market-oriented mechanisms and approaches to strengthen resource integration, guarantee solid gains for farmers, and channel national priorities in the agricultural sector into conscious actions and production and operation choices of farmers.

3. Accelerate technological innovation in seed-related science and technology

President Xi Jinping stressed that science and technology are key to food security. As China's technological innovation has entered a fast development period, it is necessary for the country to take precise measures to fundamentally enhance its technological innovation capabilities in the agricultural and livestock sectors.

The application and registration criteria for technological innovation in seed R&D should have significant improvement, based on which the implementation of the essentially derived variety (EDV) system should be promoted, so as to safeguard the intellectual property rights of seed breeders, phase out incompetent enterprises, and boost the development of the breeding industry.

The livestock breeding sector should bolster its capacity-building in technological innovation, consolidate its breeding foundation, optimize its breeding system, follow the path of import and improvement, highlight the exploration of high-quality regional seeds, and adhere to an enterprise-oriented innovative approach.

III. Strengthen cooperation and fully utilize international and domestic markets

The rational use of international resources is in the interests of consumers, in the interests of the country and in line with the actual situation.

In terms of international resources, there are a number of countries which still boast lots of resources to be developed, and the international market is characterized by an oversupply. Therefore, China will resolutely support global peace and multilateral trade, work together with other countries to promote mutual benefit, and align international resources and markets with domestic development. International resources and markets can fully meet the needs of China’s moderate imports; moreover, the Chinese market is attractive to global grain exporters and producers. It is noted that the problems of the varieties, sources and channels of external food should be solved in a drive to ensure our food supplies and meet the aspiration of our people for a better life.

(The author is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and president of the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences.)

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