Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 10:36 UK

China to increase grain output

Chinese farmers in paddy field
Meeting demand in China will be difficult if demand continues to grow

China's cabinet has approved a plan to ensure grain production keeps pace with strong domestic demand and overcomes challenges such as climate change.

China aims to reach and maintain annual grain output of 500 million tonnes by 2010, and to increase output to more than 540 million tonnes a year by 2020.

Harsh weather and the development of arable land are hurting grain output.

Despite this, the government said China would be self-sufficient in the future and could meet rising consumer demands.

In order to achieve its goals, China has set out a "red line" defining 120 million hectares (296 million acres) of land as a necessary minimum to ensure at least 95% self-sufficiency in grain supply.

Future challenges

China has the world's largest population, with more than 1.3 billion people.

As its economy grows, so do the demands and desires of its population, boosting demand for food, commodities and consumers goods.

While the country's supply and demand are more or less equal at the moment, the Chinese government has forecast that meeting demand will be tight in future.

Rapidly increasing urbanisation, a growing population and industrialisation across the country all pose major challenges to future grain production.

Water shortages and extreme weather conditions such as the recent floods are also hampering food production.

In a bid to further combat the problems, the government has also decided to increase farmer subsidies and ramp up China's grain reserve system.

Food prices have almost doubled within the past three years and have led many countries to curtail exports in order to ensure enough stocks remain for domestic consumption.

Higher prices have also led to widespread unrest across Asia and Northern Africa.

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