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Food security

Cabinet calls for price stabilisation amid China’s bleak winter

By RJ Whitehead , 29-Jan-2013
Last updated on 29-Jan-2013 at 17:20 GMT2013-01-29T17:20:23Z

China's cabinet has called for more targeted measures to stabilise food prices as one of the year’s peak periods of food consumption draws near.

Less than two weeks before the Spring Festival holiday, and in the midst of one of the coldest winters China has endured, the State Council posted a message on the government’s official website to say that agriculture authorities should play a guiding role in introducing cold-resistance and pest prevention measures to boost vegetable production.

Prices on the rise

Farm produce prices have been on the rise since November, when cold weather cut supplies, and have shown little sign of slowing. Frozen roads and icy weather have had an adverse impact on the supply chain, further driving prices up. Data from the Ministry of Commerce shows the average wholesale price for staple vegetables climbed 1.9% week on week in the seven days ending January 20, marking the twelfth consecutive week of increases.

Municipal governments in major northern cities, where the cold has hit hardest, should draw up contingency plans and release government reserves of vegetables and meat in a timely fashion, the cabinet statement said.

Regions that have seen significant vegetable price hikes should coordinate with local wholesale and retail markets to lower sellers' admission and booth fees, as well as offer subsidies to those markets and other types of vegetable stores, if necessary, the statement said.

Other measures include distributing one-time living allowances and temporary price subsidies to groups facing financial difficulties, according to the statement.

Contaminant caps

Meanwhile, China's Ministry of Health has announced new caps on levels of 13 contaminants in 20 categories of food, the Xinhua news service reports. The newly amended standards will come into effect on June 1.

They limit the content of contaminants including lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic that can legally be allowed in food including grains, vegetables, fruit, meat, drinks, alcohol, aquatic products and seasoning.

Previous limits on selenium, aluminum and fluorine were deleted in the amendment.

The ministry also said it will streamline 5,000 existing safety standards applying to agricultural produce and food products by the end of 2013.