BEIJING, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- The western world used to worry that China couldn't feed its people, but today's China has proved that not only can it feed itself, it can also help the world.
After 60 years of struggle and development, the Chinese people have bid farewell to a life of poverty and the lack of food. The grain self-sufficiency rate has remained above 95 percent for years.
In 2007, rural per capita net income has grown to 4,140 yuan (606 U.S. dollars), five times that of 1978. The total volume of grain yield in 2008 reached 525 million tons, compared to 113 million tons in 1949.
In 2005, China halted receiving grain assistance from other countries and donated 577,000 tons of grain instead, becoming the third largest grain donator in the world, just after the U.S. and the European Union.
At present, the Chinese per capita nutrition intake has risen above the world average level. The number of poor in rural areas has declined from 250 million in 1978 to today's 14.79 million, making China one of the few countries to have reduced poverty levels in its population.
Henk-Jan Brinkman, senior economic analyst with the World Food Program, said China had "set an example" for the elimination of poverty and hunger.
Fang Cheng, senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said: "China has made tremendous progress in poverty alleviation since the country adopted its policy of reform and opening-up in 1978."
"As the most populous country in the world, China has successfully fed a population making up about 20 percent of the world's total. The country's significance for the world's grain security is self-evident," he said.
The credit goes primarily to government-backed policies on the Three Agricultural Problems (agriculture, rural areas, farmers), which have increased public investment and promoted technological advancement, Fang added.
China's strong technological strength has boosted three major grain productions. Corn's yield per unit has increased from 1.18 tons per hectare in 1961 to 5.15 tons in 2007, rice has been raised to 6.43 tons per hectare from two tons, wheat is up from 0.56 ton to 4.61 tons.
As David Bradford, a geosciences professor at the Pennsylvania State University put it, a healthy food system consists of three elements: investment for agricultural research & development, infrastructure construction, and a reasonable food pricing system.
China has made remarkable achievements in all the three areas, he said.
The Chinese government has put food safety as a basic human right, and is taking measures to encourage agriculture to transform from the current self-sufficiency and half self-sufficiency modes to large-scale commercial production, and from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture.
The new target of the Chinese government is to increase grain production to 540 million tons by 2020, and double Chinese farmers' 2008 annual net income.
To reach the goal, the Chinese government raised its agricultural budget by 30.3 percent in 2007 and 37.9 percent in 2008 and it is expected to rise another 20.2 percent this year.
"No other big country, barring India, has increased spending on farming so much," said the Financial Times. However, it also warned of severe challenges to the planned crop output increase, including water scarcity, loss of fertile land, slowing agricultural productivity growth, and climate change.
The Chinese government has long realized and prepared for the problems. In the Outlines Regarding the State Mid- and Long-Term Grain Security Plan for 2008-2020 Period, the government listed a series of challenges the Chinese agriculture is facing, including the fact that China's grain supply and demand will be in a tight balance for a long period, deficits in agricultural product trade, annual increases in the import of soybean and cotton and rising prices of major agricultural and sideline products. "Agriculture remains the weak part of national economy," the outlines said.
Andrzej Kwiecinski, a leading economist with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), once pointed out that, although China's agricultural development still faces some problems, such as a large income gap between farmers and city dwellers and lagging investment, he still feels optimistic about the sector's future, due to its amazing achievements in the past.
The development of Chinese agriculture has also provided a guide for other developing countries. A new report from an African agricultural technology fund pointed out that the prosperity of China's agriculture has "provided experiences for Africa."
Currently China has set up or is setting up more than 20 agricultural technology demonstration centers around the world, and will double the number of experts to be dispatched overseas. The seed planted to feed the Chinese is also likely to feed people in other developing countries.
|Xinhua Editor: Yan|