China to draft food security plan amid global coronavirus epidemicChina to draft food security plan amid global coronavirus epidemic
Officials and delegates attend the opening session of NPC in Beijing

By Hallie Gu and Tom Daly

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will draft and carry out in 2020 a response plan for ensuring food security amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the country’s state planner said on Friday.

Beijing will also draw up a new national medium-to-long-term plan in the new year to secure food supplies, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in an annual report to parliament.

The move came as the pandemic has roiled agriculture supply chains worldwide, and threatened to trigger a potential food crisis.

Chinese authorities have urged state and private firms to boost inventories of major agriculture products like soybeans and corn to prepare for any further disruptions from the outbreak.

“It is imperative, and it is well within our ability, to ensure the food supply for 1.4 billion Chinese people through our own efforts,” China’s Premier Li Keqiang said to parliament.

China will keep total crop acreage and grain output stable in 2020, give more rewards to major grain producing counties, and raise the minimum purchase price of rice, Li said.

Chinese farmers plan to plant 70 million mu (4.6 million hectares or 11.4 million acres) of early rice this year, up by more than 3 million mu from a year ago, according to Premier Li. A mu is a traditional unit used for land area.

While improving the management of grain reserves, China will take active measures to expand the capacity of grain silos for summer harvests, the state planner said.

China will continue to promote pig production recovery, and strengthen the inspection and prevention of major animal diseases like African swine fever, according to the report.

The highly contagious disease, which has decimated China’s massive pig herd, remains a threat to hog production, but the country will not see a big increase in pork prices, Agriculture Minister Han Changfu said.

China will also diversify imports of major agricultural products, and guarantee the stable supply of produce including grain, edible oil, meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, the NDRC said in its report.

The world’s top agriculture market relies on overseas markets for soybeans and has been seeking ways to increase imports of meats to plug a domestic supply gap after African swine fever slashed pork output.

China will also ensure the supply of seed, fertiliser, pesticide and farming machinery, Premier Li said.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu, Min Zhang, Tom Daly, Hallie Gu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Christian Schmollinger)