UPDATE 3-China steps up focus on food security in major policy document – Successful Farming

(Adds detail, charts)

By Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu

BEIJING, Feb 22 (Reuters) – 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.
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.

“It is necessary to select a group of superior enterprises
to give priority support,” Zhang Taolin, vice agriculture
minister, said at the briefing.

Shares of seed firms including Beijing Dabeinong Technology
Group Co, Shandong Denghai Seed and
Winall Hi-tech Seed Co were all up around 4% on
Monday.

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.

It also called for the building of a modern animal farming
system and protecting the production capacity of hogs.

Despite recent concerns about a surge of disease over the
winter, Tang said on Monday China’s hog herd will recover to
2017 levels by June, reaching numbers not seen since the
outbreak of African swine fever.

However, he said the country needs to find ways to make the
herd more stable and prevent farmers from slaughtering sows when
prices fall.

(Reporting by Hallie Gu, Dominique Patton, Judy Hua and Yew Lun
Tian; Editing by Richard Pullin and Jacqueline Wong)

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