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The key to China's food security lies in its capacity

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The key to China's food security lies in its capacity

People regard food as the heaven and safeguarding food security has always been the core of China’s agricultural policy. Under such policy goals, increasing grain output has always been the main objective of China's agricultural policy. However, such a policy system now faces unprecedented challenges.


After the Chinese government decided to cancel the implementation of the millennium agricultural tax in 2004, and began to subsidize agriculture, according to the statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics, China's grain output has increased for 12 consecutive years. In 2015, the output reached the highest point of 621 million tons. As a result of structural adjustments and changes in subsidy policies, the national food production in 2016, although slightly lower, remained at 616 million tons.


In order to ensure food security, the policy of continuously increasing grain output has brought about a series of difficult policy problems after achieving a continuous increase in food production for 12 years: With the increase of domestic grain production, grain imports have increased year after year. In order to protect the income of farmers and ensure food security, the state implemented a purchase price policy for food protection. After the long-term decline in international grain prices in 2011, the protection price has been higher than international prices. This has led to the purchase of expensive domestically produced food by the state for inventory, while the low-cost international food imports have continued to rise. This has brought a huge financial burden and has also made China's agriculture lose its international competitiveness.


At the same time, due to the shortage of cultivated land resources, the increase in grain production depends mainly on the increase in yields. This requires the use of large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides and adopts intensive farming practices. This leads to pollution of soil, water and air resources, and degradation of soil fertility. The dark land in the northeast is thinning every year, and soil pollution in Hunan and other places is alarming. The resulting food safety issues are widely concerned by the community. This has brought severe challenges to the sustainable development of agriculture in our country.


Obviously, the current agricultural policy ideas have to be corrected. I think that the basic starting point of China's agricultural policy should be to ensure the production of grain and transform it into a guarantee of grain production.


As the economy soars, China’s food security has been resolved at the individual micro level, and there is very little hunger in China. There are huge natural risks and market risks in food production. From the perspective of macro-policy, food security is most concerned about the shortage of food supplies under certain extreme events. However, in the event of these extreme events, for the sake of social stability, food production and consumption must be subject to government intervention. Consumption of high-consumption food products such as meat must be controlled. In such extreme circumstances, from the standpoint of maintaining survival, 150 kg of food per person per year is sufficient. To meet the survival of 1.4 billion people, only 210 million tons is enough. This is 1/3 of the current grain output. With reference to our neighboring country, India, its total grain output was only 290 million tons in 2014. After safeguarding the needs of more than 1.2 billion people, there is still a slight surplus of exports; this is due to less meat consumption in India.


Under the background of globalization, even without imports, China's existing grain production capacity is sufficient to ensure Chinese people's food security under extreme conditions. The problem of food in our country is not the supply shortage but the problem of excess supply. In the face of excess supply, our policy thinking should shift from ensuring production to ensuring production capacity. We can learn from the experiences of countries such as Europe and, through the formulation of agricultural policies, allow land rotation and fallow cultivation to maintain and increase the productivity of the land while reducing the total production, but can guarantee grain production capacity in the long term. In fact, the implementation of fallow subsidies for agriculture has also been put on the agenda of agricultural policy.


Land rotation and fallow cultivation are different from land reclamation. During fallow cultivation, the land productivity and necessary infrastructure must be maintained for ready use. For example, the European Union requires farmers to take out 10% of the land each year to fallow, so as to obtain subsidies. At the same time, in order to maintain the fertility of the fallow land, farmers are required to plant fast-growing interplanted crops to prevent the loss of soil minerals, otherwise the farmer cannot obtain full subsidies. Unlike Europe, the most important staple for the Chinese is rice. Rice production requires the necessary water conservancy facilities. If the fallow subsidy is applied to rice in the future, it must be ensured that the function of the water irrigation facilities is not lost. Under WTO rules, subsidy to paddy fields is perfectly acceptable on the grounds of environmental protection or landscape maintenance of paddy fields.


Safeguarding food production capacity can ensure China's food security in the long run. When any supply is insufficient, these production capacity can be quickly started to meet people's food needs; instead of using these capacities to the fullest and directly realizing the output, this is exactly the current oversupply of foodstuffs and the great challenge to China’s agricultural policy. The fundamental issue.