Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Oct 15, in Rome, Italy. [Photo/Xinhua]
As the most populous country in the world, China has successfully delivered millions of people from hunger and is helping other countries achieve food security.
In a latest move to this end, Premier Li Keqiang announced on Oct 15 that China will donate $50 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in the coming five years.
On the eve of World Food Day, Li made the remarks in Rome in a speech at the headquarters of the FAO, the first intergovernmental organization the premier has visited among all UN agencies since he took office.
As the biggest developing country, China will always be an active force in maintaining food security and ready to work with other countries to create a hunger-free and poverty-free world with sustained development, said Li.
“I trust this visit will mark and unveil a new chapter for the FAO and China collaboration in the noble fight against hunger at national, regional and global levels,” said Percy Misika, the FAO’s representative in China.
Achievements at home
Chinese people, including President Xi Jinping and the premier himself, suffered a long period of undernourishment several decades ago.
Sweeping rural reform ended communal farming in 1978 and the “household contract responsibility system” came in its place.
Urban land is owned by the state and rural land is under collective ownership. Under the system, rights to the majority of collectively-owned farmland were split and allocated to farmers.
Grain production has picked up since then.
China saw a bumper harvest for the 10th consecutive year in 2013 and summer grain output hit a record high of 136.6 million tons in 2014.
According to FAO data, grain production in China has increased by 1.04 tons per hectare in the past decade.
The country has used 9 percent of global arable land and 6.5 percent of fresh water resources to produce one-fourth of the world’s grain and fed nearly one-fifth of the world’s population.
In his speech, the premier attributed the vitality in Chinese agriculture in the past three decades to the reform and opening-up policy, technology innovation and favorable policies.
“The Chinese government attaches great significance to agriculture and we keep working to achieve self-sufficiency in food,” said Li.
From 1990-92 to 2012-14, 209 million people have been lifted from chronic undernourishment globally, according to the FAO.
“China alone has reduced the number of undernourished people by 138 million in this period, a massive and unmatched contribution to global food security, with the rest of the world contributing a mere 71 million reduction,” said Misika.
Cheng Guoqiang, a researcher with the Development Research Center under China’s State Council, said the achievements in China mean a great contribution to the global mission of hunger and poverty reduction.
In addition, China’s bumper harvests and abundant stockpiles are key factors helping drive down international cereal prices and are conducive to the stability of the international food market, according to Misika.
China is willing to share agricultural technologies, equipment and ideas behind developing agriculture with all other countries, said the premier.
“China is a major contributor rather than being a threat to global food security,” stressed Misika.
Bumpy road ahead
China has a population of 1.3 billion people and the number is on the rise. The FAO estimates that China’s demand for food will be 700 million tons by 2020.
Although the country has set a red line that its cultivated land area should not fall below 120 million hectares, pressure on arable land protection is still great, mainly due to rapid urbanization.
In Misika’s view, the high level of food waste, especially table food waste, could pose a threat to China’s sustained food security if not addressed soon.
The environmental sustainability of the food production and consumption system is another challenge to the food security of future generations, warned the FAO representative.
Cheng said, most seriously, farmers’ willingness to grow crops is rapidly waning as returns from the land are much smaller than working in cities.
In a situation far removed from the land split of 1978, China is now encouraging a consolidation of land in the hope of boosting economies of scale and incentivizing farmers.
To that end, China’s central authorities have vowed to support the transfer and mortgage of land-use rights in order to faciliate large-scale farming.
As a result, China now has about 870,000 “family farms,” each with an average area of 13 hectares. More than one million farming cooperatives have been established across the country.
“These organizations are an important force pushing ahead China’s agricultural modernization,” said Li.
Cheng suggested that China should put more effort into agricultural technology, which is key to improve productivity, since the arable land is quite limited.
A string of pro-agriculture policies are already in place, including farmer training, minimum grain purchase prices and protection of cultivated land area.
“These measures put China in a good position to ensuring food security for its people,” said Misika.