Home to a fifth of the world population, it is no surprise that food security ranks very high on the list of policy priorities for China. Boosting the agriculture output and ensuring a high level of food self-sufficiency is deemed vital to national strategic interests, a point underscored again by Beijing on Sunday.
In the first major policy paper of 2014, the so-called No.1 document, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party emphasized food security as a key task for this year, highlighting the importance of rural reform, development of modern agriculture and keeping the farm sector as a pillar of the national economy.
Assistance and protection for agriculture, the national food security system, rural governance and rural land reform should be stepped up, the document said. Rural finance system needs a new, more innovative approach, it said, calling for a long-term mechanism for sustainable agriculture development and new farm management systems.
The country will continue to seek basic self-sufficiency in food grain while allowing an appropriate level of imports, the document said.
The latest blueprint reflects the government’s aim to push forward reform in the agriculture sector to strengthen food security and enhance food quality, observers say.
Food quality improvement is a major goal, given the various food contamination scandals in the country in recent years. Meanwhile, food security has been taken to a new level as Beijing tries to keep imports in check and cut dependence on foreign produce.
According to the document, the government will establish a tight and broad regulatory regime on food safety. There are hopes that authorities could shift the focus from quantity to quality and strike a good balance. Such move will help restore public trust that has been badly damaged in the recent past due to the array of food scandals.
Another bright spot in the latest policy roadmap is pinning individual responsibility toward food safety. While food makers should take responsibility and disclose to the public any tainted products, government officials will be held to account for lapses in market oversight.
The document suggested that local authorities should bear responsibility to ensure food safety for the public. Food safety will be taken into account in officials’ appraisal reports, which should force frontline civil servants to pay attention to the food sold in the market and weed out unsafe items.
In October last year, the central government allocated 600 million yuan (US$97.88 million) to encourage food output and help boost the nation’s food security. The funds were allocated to five major agricultural provinces — Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangxi — to subsidize food production and upgrade agricultural technology.
The funds will be used to encourage banks to increase lending to rural areas, improve farming conditions and boost farm productivity.
Apart from food security, the No.1 document also laid out the direction of the nation’s primary industry development, with additional efforts urged to establish new agricultural management systems with a focus on improving the land utilization.
The development modes of agriculture should be transformed to resolve the problem of limited land and scarce water, the policy document said, calling for more high-quality and safe farm products to meet the needs of the people.
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