Two sessions: China not at risk of food crisis because of Covid-19, agriculture minister says

Keegan Elmer

Covid-19 will not cause a food crisis in China, the country’s top agriculture official said on Friday, after the United Nations warned earlier of the rising threat of shortages because of disruption to global supply chains.

“Food is something everyone has been very concerned about, especially this year with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Han Changfu said at the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

“Some countries have increased food reserves and some have limited food exports, so people are worried about whether our country will have a food crisis,” he said.

“On this issue, I can say with certainty, China will not have a food crisis.”

China’s grain output is set to top 650 million tonnes this year. Photo: Simon Song

The nation’s grain output in 2020 would be more than 650 million tonnes, as it had been in each of the past five years, Han said.

In March, fears of a possible rice shortage in China grew after two of its key suppliers, Cambodia and Vietnam, imposed export bans on the grain to protect national reserves as Covid-19 spread around the world.

While those concerns eased after the bans were lifted earlier this month, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Association has warned that the threat of a global food crisis remains because of the disruption to production.

Last week, the agency, which is headed by Chinese director general Qu Dongyu, tripled its funding request to US$350 million to provide critical support to countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Han also said on Friday that China needed to step up its fight against African swine fever, which decimated the nation’s pig population after being detected in the autumn of 2018.

By some estimates, the disease reduced China’s sow inventory by as much as 60 per cent last year, and pork prices rocketed as a result.

However, since hitting a near record high of more than 50 yuan (US$7) per kilogram in February – the situation was exacerbated by the Lunar New Year holiday and factory closures as cities went into lockdown – Han said pork prices had fallen for the past 13 weeks in a row.

Nevertheless, revitalising the country’s pig production was an ongoing process, he said, adding that the authorities were accelerating efforts to develop a vaccine for the disease and cracking down on those engaged in the illegal transport of pigs.

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