China vows to build itself into an agricultural powerhouse, with food security, all-round rural revitalization prioritized

global times​​​

By Chi Jingyi and Tao Mingyang

    China has laid out the priorities for the country's rural work in 2024 at a key meeting held from Tuesday to Wednesday, stressing the target to build China into an agricultural powerhouse and the importance of advancing rural revitalization across the board.

    Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made important instructions on work related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers at the annual Central Rural Work Conference, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

    To advance Chinese modernization, the country must make unremitting efforts to strengthen the foundation of the agricultural sector and advance rural revitalization across the board, said Xi.

    The meeting, which was held from Tuesday to Wednesday in Beijing, analyzed the current situation and challenges facing the country's rural sector, while mapping out priorities for rural work in 2024, according to a readout of the meeting released on Wednesday.

    Analysts said the conference has set a tone for the country's rural work in 2024 by clarifying the target, mission and path of achieving modernization of agriculture and rural areas.

    Food security prioritized

    Seen from the readout, food security will still be among China's most fundamental interests and rural work will be focusing on strengthening food security, including increasing the area of farmlands and grain yield, accelerating invigoration of the seed industry, and intensifing research on core technologies, analysts noted.

    The meeting stressed that China will ensure the area of farmlands, in parallel to the increase of the grain yield. Efforts will be made in agricultural disaster prevention, mitigation and relief.

    China emphasized the importance of maintaining the area of farmlands, which it has set a red line of no less than 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares). Efforts have also been made to prevent farmland from becoming non-agricultural use.

    Again, China sets the target of grain output for 2024 - staying above 1.3 trillion jin (650 billion kilograms) in 2024.

    The country has for nine consecutive years achieved the target of an output of above 1.3 trillion jin, with output in 2023 reaching a record high of 1.39 trillion jin, according to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics.

    Meanwhile, the country will build a diversified food supply system, with efforts simultaneously made in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishing.

    Relying on technology

    To inject momentum and vitality into agricultural modernization, it is important to strengthen the driving forces of science and technology as well as reform, intensify efforts to achieve breakthroughs in core technologies, and improve work mechanism for agriculture, rural areas and farmers, Xi said.

    Apart from improving the quality of arable lands, analysts said food security will be guaranteed through modernized agricultural infrastructure and facilities, as well as technological breakthroughs in the seed industry, so as to accelerate China's realization of self-reliance in agricultural science and technology.

    Next year's rural work focuses on improving food security capacity through enhancing the resilience and stability of the supply chain, and relying on scientific and technological equipment to modernize the agriculture sector, Li Guoxiang, a research fellow at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

    "Under the premise that the overall food supply is guaranteed, China will also focus on improving rural infrastructure and public services in 2024, which is crucial to increasing the efficiency of the agricultural sector," said Li.

    Ensuring food security now refers to the capacity to produce, store, transport and process food when needed, rather than the simple pursuit of grain output like in the past, Wang Gangyi, a professor at Northeast Agricultural University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

    "Food security is now measured by the capacity of the whole agricultural industrial and supply chain, from production to the dining table. China should accelerate the construction of major water conservancy projects, and build seedling centers, grain drying facilities, and cold chain logistics facilities for agricultural products," said Wang.

    China has long been putting efforts in improving and modernizing the agricultural sector and achieved remarkable progress.

    So far, the overall mechanization rate of agricultural cultivation and harvest has exceeded 73 percent in China, with 1.8 million agricultural machines equipped with positioning service powered by the China-developed BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, according to official data.

    China has achieved basic coverage of seed supply in grain, cotton, oil, sugar, pig, cattle, sheep, poultry, fish, shrimp, crabs and shellfish, and the seed supply guarantee rate has increased to more than 75 percent so far, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

    With the global climate change and the increase of extreme weathers, China's agricultural field needs to further strengthen disaster prevention and reduction, and reduce impacts and losses through science and technology, Jiao Shanwei, editor-in-chief of industry news website cngrain.com, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

    Wang stressed that it is important to enhance the development of agricultural technologies to build China into a powerhouse.

    All-round rural revitalization

    Apart from food security, the key agricultural meeting urged efforts to improve rural industrial development, rural construction and rural governance, and to strive for substantive progress in promoting rural revitalization across the board, according to Xinhua.

    It also stressed that rural revitalization work should start from the practical problems reflected by the farmers.

    The key to advancing rural revitalization is the promotion of rural industry development, said Li, suggesting that efforts should be made to thoroughly implement policies to support rural industries, develop industries with distinctive characteristics, and upgrade and foster new industries and other forms of businesses in response to demand.

    Wang said that in order to fully revitalize rural areas, rural residents must not only have a rich "material" life, but also a rich spiritual life.

    He mentioned the "Village BA," formerly "Village Basketball Association" competition, a grassroot basketball tournament that went viral in China.

    Although the players are mostly amateurs, most of whom are farmers, the "Village BA" tournament is known for its exciting atmosphere.

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