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China sees record harvest, but hurdles remain
October 16, 2013, 7:37 am

In 2008, China subsidized rice farming and increased export duties to increase domestic food security [Xinhua]

In 2008 and 2009, China subsidized rice farming and increased export duties to increase domestic food security [Xinhua]

As the UN marks World Food Day on Wednesday, China’s recent harvest figures may give it reason to celebrate.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the State Administration of Grain (SAG), 2013 is a record year for key harvests of grain, at 132 million tonnes, and maize at a better-than-expected 215 million tonnes.

But China faces a number of challenges – including rampant pollution, poor storage facilities, and less farm land as more people move from rural regions to urban centres.

Improving China’s food security falls in tandem with the theme of this year’s UN’s World Food Day –  “sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition”.

According to the a report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 12 per cent (or 842 million people) of the world’s population have suffered chronic hunger.

Although the “estimated number of undernourished people has continued to decrease, the rate of progress appears insufficient to reach international goals for hunger reduction in developing regions,” the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013 report says.

While economic growth in developing nations is necessary to improve food security, it is not enough to ensure long-term sustainability and access, the report adds.

In the period 2006 to 2010, Chinese authorities faced a number of difficulties as global prices of food staples, such as rice and poultry, drove domestic costs soaring. The price of eggs, for example, increased 22 per cent in this period.

Beijing responded by increasing export duties and offering subsidies on such staples as rice and fertilizers, FAO said in 2009.

Fertilizer management has been one of the core issues that Chinese experts have addressed in the past decade.

Since 2005, Beijing has dispatched scientists and experts to collect soil samples from 190 million farmer households each year in order to study how fertilizers are being used, or misused, in rural areas.

The programme has produced dividends: Research of 93.3 million hectares of farmland has allowed authorities to save 8.5 million tonnes of fertilizer.

To mark World Food Day, EU Commissioners for Development, Andris Piebalgs, and for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, Kristalina Georgieva are urging developing nations to examine the nutritional content of child food consumption.

“We call on other donors and partners to ensure that we all act together in doing what we can to make sure that people have not just enough to eat but also the right quality of food, no matter where they live,” a commissioners’ press release said.

Source: Agencies