Thursday, October 6, 2011

Policy Produces Grain

Graphics promoting the government's subsidies and 350,000 technicians from the Farmers Daily web site

The Ministry of Agriculture is pouring on the propaganda about an 8th-straight increase in grain harvest expected this year despite droughts, floods, short supplies of water and land, and the European debt crisis. The Farmers Daily web site has an entire page of articles and a video announcing the magic number of 1.1 billion jin (550 million metric tons) expected for this year. It gives credit to the increase in the government's subsidies and 350,000 technicians in the fields giving guidance to farmers.

A Farmers Daily reporter interviewed Mr. Zhang Hongyu, the head of the Ministry of Agriculture's Legal Office, to find out how China could pull off this remarkable string of increases in grain production for eight years in a row.

Zhang obligingly explains that the government's policy support is the main factor responsible for increasing grain production. He points to the government's big increase in spending on rural issues, especially subsidies and price supports which mobilize farmers and local officials in the task of grain production. A second factor is the government's efforts to overcome drought and floods. The third factor is better implementation of policies. After issuing dozens of subsidy policies since 2004, this year the government finally decided to organize a survey team to go out and find out whether policies were being actually implemented and what the actual problems are with grain production.

Among the implementation activities Zhang identifies are a big propaganda campaign this year to make sure farmers know how much the government is doing to help them. We presume this interview is part of the propaganda campaign.

Next Zhang turns to the all-important issue of maintaining grain security in the face of rising demand and an anticipated exodus of labor out of farming in coming decades. Zhang emphasizes that Chinese people must depend on themselves for this task. Zhang says this means China must remain self-sufficient in corn, wheat and rice. Zhang says China can rely on imports to fill gaps between supply and demand for other commodities, but must depend on domestic production for its supply of grains. He mentions corn first, perhaps quashing the oft-repeated predictions that China is about to relax its self-sufficiency policy for corn and become a big importer.

In order to maintain self-sufficiency, Zhang says that China will keep increasing subsidies, keep raising grain prices and control imports and exports. They will keep spending on infrastructure, provide extension services, support farmer cooperatives, give farmers loans, and support new programs like pest control teams and drought mitigation efforts.

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