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Last Updated: Monday, 13 December, 2004, 12:57 GMT
China 'no longer needs food aid'
Rice paddies in southern China's Guangxi province
China has proved it has the means to feed itself, the WFP says
The UN World Food Programme is urging China to become a bigger donor instead of a recipient of its aid.

The call comes as the United Nations organisation phases out its aid programmes to China next year.

In the past quarter of a century the World Food Programme has helped feed 35 million Chinese but now it says the country no longer needs its help.

The shift is a sign that China's economic growth has changed its role on the world stage, correspondents say.

James Morris, the executive director of the WFP, is visiting Beijing to ask Chinese leaders, including Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, to give more to the organisation.

"Our job is to feed the hungriest, poorest people, wherever they are in the world," he told the BBC.

"We are very focussed on those countries that would be the least developed, that would have the greatest food security problem, and the least per capita income.

"China is no longer one of those countries."

Experiences and resources

"China now has this extraordinary experience of how to move a large number of people out of hunger and poverty," Mr Morris said.

"China has built its capacity to address its own problems, it doesn't need us any more.

A girl begs for money in Beijing
As millions move to China's cities, more are slipping into poverty
"China is one of the most important countries in the world, so I will be asking them to help us more," he added.

The BBC's Louisa Lim in Beijing says the situation on the ground the situation is more complicated.

Despite China's 9% growth rate, the wealth disparity between provinces is huge and official statistics show the number of people living in absolute poverty rose last year - the first such increase in 25 years.

Chen Jian, the director of agriculture for the remote north-western province of Gansu - which still receives WFP aid - told the foreign media that assistance would be needed from other international organisations after WFP aid is phased out.

But the call to do more underlines how China is being asked to shoulder more responsibility in international institutions, in line with its growing clout, our correspondent adds.

Economic growth has ensured that China can afford to import grain.

But analysts say that the issue of food security will remain a key priority as millions of farmers leave the countryside for China's growing cities.

Why the UN thinks China can feed itself


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