Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 13:36 UK

China 'may lease foreign fields'

Chinese rice fields
Could rice fields like these be replaced by farms abroad?

China could lease overseas farming land to beat rising food prices, according to reports from Beijing.

Soaring grain prices have encouraged the ministry of agriculture to consider the scheme, according to the Beijing Morning newspaper.

Chinese enterprises would lease or even buy farmland in Latin America, Australia and the former Soviet Union.

The land in production could replace Chinese farmland lost to rapidly growing cities and industrial zones.

Pilot schemes

The BBC's China analyst, Shirong Chen, says the initiative builds on recent experience.

Ten years ago a Chinese company formed a joint venture with the Cuban government to set up two farms to grow rice in Cuba. A similar venture has been set up in Mexico.

High international grain prices and the pressure of domestic inflation are the main factors behind the drive.

Grain prices rose by 60 % on the global market in the first three months of the year, adding to inflationary forces in a country which needs to feed 1.3 billion people.

Meanwhile official records showed that the amount of available arable land fell sharply in 2007, getting closer to the minimum level Beijing has vowed to retain.

How to solve the global food crisis
28 Apr 08 |  South Asia
The cost of food: Facts and figures
08 Apr 08 |  Special Reports

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