Agricultural investment to continue

By Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-27 0:18:01

A farmer ploughs farmland in Suichuan, East China's Jiangxi Province, on Saturday. Photo: IC

China will continue to invest hea­vily in the agriculture sector to ensure food security, with 70 billion yuan ($11.27 billion) being allocated to water resource infrastructure, a spokesman for the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said Wednesday.

The total volume and proportion of investment for agriculture in 2014 will be greater than in 2013, said NDRC spokesman Li Pumin at a press conference in Beijing Wednesday.

This means that over half of the 457.6 billion yuan from the central budget will go into agriculture, Li noted.

"Strong backing from the central government highlights the agricultural sector's key position in China's social and economic development," Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Compared with other sectors, agricultural development still lags behind and needs further fiscal support, Li of the CASS noted.

Over 70 billion yuan will be allocated to agricultural infrastructure projects in the water resources sector, such as water diversion projects, management of rivers and lakes, and irrigation projects, the NDRC's Li said.

"Investment in water resources always ranks at the top of central budget investment and the funding could prove to be useful in improving irrigation facilities to meet the challenges of modern agriculture," Shen Dajun, a professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The NDRC will also improve levees for small- and medium-sized rivers, to improve protection against natural disasters, Gao Juncai, director of the NDRC's Rural Economy Department, said at the press conference on Wednesday.

"Natural disasters, [which are increasing] as a result of climate change, require better water resources projects and better technologies, and these should be areas for spending," said Li from the CASS.

In 2013, China overhauled and reinforced 15,000 small-sized reservoirs, and provided safe drinking water to 63 million more rural people, said Li from the NDRC.

The central budget allocated over 220 billion yuan in 2013 for improvement of rural areas and agricultural development, accounting for 50.6 percent of the total, he said.

The NDRC is also drafting plans for ecological projects related to agriculture, such as linking of lakes and rivers and improving wetland areas, according to Gao.

Investment in 2012 proved effective in increasing grain production capacity, farmland improvement, upgrading of irrigation areas and the construction and improvement of water pumping stations, the NDRC's Li said.

Part of the investment will be used to improve food safety, and grass-roots quality checkups will be strengthened in the next two years, Gao noted.

The prices of cotton and soy beans fell greatly in international commodity markets in 2013, causing a disparity with prices in the domestic market, and the NDRC is working on a scheme to organize subsidies for cotton produced in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and soybeans in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia, according to the NDRC's Li.

"The scheme is more difficult to implement than simply giving subsidies, and it requires a number of auxiliary projects to be carried out," said Li from the CASS.

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