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China expected to play big role in global food security

By WANG XIAODONG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-16 08:57

Workers pack rice harvested from a saline-alkali testing field before weighing it in Rudong county, Jiangsu province, on Wednesday. The average production of the testing fields reached a record high of 12 metric tons per hectare for saltwater rice. XU JINGBAI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Stable food production and prices in China will contribute greatly to global food security, which has been challenged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a major body of the United Nations said.

"With the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on global agricultural and food markets are becoming increasingly apparent," said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "As one of the largest exporters and importers of agricultural commodities, China's robust food supply, stock and consumption contribute as a great stabilizer in international food market and food security."

China is expected to have a good harvest this year, with total grain production expected to remain at 650 million metric tons for the sixth consecutive year, despite the impact of COVID-19 and flooding in some areas, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Total grain production for the summer harvest this year exceeded 142 million tons, a rise of 0.9 percent compared with last summer, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The FAO said production of wheat crops and cereal imports in China are stable, and prices of rice and wheat, two of the most important crops in China, have remained generally steady since the beginning of this year.

Throughout the world, however, food security faces challenges caused by the pandemic. An additional 130 million people globally may fall into hunger this year, according to a report jointly released in July by five international organizations including the FAO, the United Nations World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.

In its August edition of the global food monitoring brief, the FAO lowered its forecast for world cereal production this year by 25 million tons, a decrease of 0.9 percent compared to the previous forecast in July. Meanwhile, the forecast for world cereal stocks by the end of next year has also been cut by the organization, although it said the stocks this year will still represent an all-time high.

Although self-sufficient in cereals, such as wheat and rice, China relied on imports for the bulk of domestic demand for soybeans. China imports more than 80 million tons of soybeans every year-most of which are used to produce edible oil and animal feed-accounting for more than 80 percent of all crop imports, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Meanwhile, the import of cereals only accounts for 2 percent of domestic production every year, it said.

The FAO has called on governments to recognize the importance of ensuring that trade, whether domestic or international, remains open and frictionless, is free from restrictions and meets food capacities in terms of volume and fulfilling nutritional gaps, it said.

"We need to rely on markets as an integral part of the global food system. This is all the more important in the face of major disruptions, whether they come from COVID-19, locust outbreaks or climate change," said Qu Dongyu, the FAO's director-general.

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