The country’s Thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016 to 2020) was very much focused on achieving significant results based on innovation and technology, with fast-paced development a key characteristic, but the Fourteenth Five-Year Plan appears to be much more focused on achieving stability and security compared to before when it comes to food security management.
This is likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic having caused much concern in these areas locally.
According to China National Development and Reform Commission Director He Lifeng, food security in China made ‘historic achievements’ during the Thirteenth Plan even despite COVID-19, particularly with regard to local grain security.
“The National Food and Strategic Reserves (LSWZ) [have] effectively played its role as ‘ballast’ to the country [by providing stability in times of hardship] – what needs to be done now is to plan for development under the Fourteenth Plan, [with a focus on] market stabilisation, protecting people’s livelihoods, and guaranteeing food security,” said He at a high level meeting with the LSWZ administration.
“We have seen [Premier Xi Jinping’s] ‘China’s grain, China’s rice bowl’ concept achieve much more maturity, such that grain and [material reserves] are now in a position where we have enough reserves to respond to any risks or challenges.”
‘China’s grain, China’s rice bowl’ was a concept conceptualised by Xi, basically referring to China’s self-sufficiency in terms of producing enough of its own grain to satisfy its immense local requirements.
“[So although] we must continue to coordinate national development, [it is now crucial to] hold steady the stability of our food and grain reserves, which are crucial as the ‘national stabiliser’ to our food security,” said He.
China will move forward with this strategy by adhering to some of Xi’s other concepts such as ‘Six Stabilities’, which refers to the stabilisation of employment, finance, foreign trade, foreign investments, local investments, and expectations; and ‘Six Guarantees’ which guarantee all locals have employment, basic needs, market to work in, food security, supply chain stability and social operationality.
“The LSWZ administration [should base their development strategies] for 2021 on Premier Xi’s concepts, [such as] putting solid work into providing the Six Stabilities and fully implementing the Six Guarantees [in order to] build a higher quality, more efficient, longer-lasting food security system,” the meeting stated.
National High-Quality Grain Project
That said, this emphasis on stability does not mean that China is not looking to make advancements or growth in its food security plans – one area where the meeting concluded advancement must be made a priority is in the National High-Quality Grain Project.
This national mega-project is comprised of thousands of individual projects nationwide, all with the aim of improving food security and agricultural reform efforts via efforts such as identifying better grains and reducing post-production food loss. As of 2020, China has invested some CNY80bn (US$12.4bn) into this project, as per government data.
“Apart from making more discoveries about grain production, the other area of emphasis will be the construction of a national industrial food security belt to amplify the role of food processing and manufacturing [to produce value-added products],” said the meeting.
“This will draw from experiences from [successful state models] such as the Huzhou Model and Funan model, and will involve strong implementation of supply chain construction, reparation, and strengthening on one end, [whilst also] working on reducing post-production food loss at various stages from storage to transport to processing.”
It was also emphasised that grain and oil research institutes would be reformed to fit in with this project, and more universities, key disciplines and laboratories would be established to support these efforts.
“In the face of the new [post-COVID-19] situation comes new responsibilities and requirements [but at the core] it is key to provide strengthened leadership over national food reserves, and create a strong environment for our food security [to flourish],” the meeting concluded.