Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (L, back) speaks at the central rural work conference in Beijing, capital of China. The conference was held from Dec. 19 to 20. (Photo: Xinhua/Yao Dawei)
A central rural work conference has stressed the need for better quality and efficiency in agriculture, focused on farmers' incomes and produce quality.
The two-day meeting stressed product mix, management and regional planning as top priorities in supply-side agricultural structural reform, according to the statement released after the conference on Tuesday.
China will seek new growth engines in agriculture and rural areas to improve productivity and competitiveness, said President Xi Jinping at a previous political bureau standing committee meeting.
The idea of a structural overhaul in the sector was first floated at the same meeting last year and is high on next year's agenda.
China has plenty of ordinary produce, but very few high-quality, branded agricultural products, so market-oriented reform must meet new consumer demands, said Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu.
The country will rationalize the relationship between the government and market, injecting vitality into the market, the statement said.
The meeting also required more targeted efforts to get another 10 million people out of poverty in 2017. Per capita disposable rural income grew only 6.5 percent in the first three quarters this year, the slowest in almost 13 years and failing to outpace GDP growth for the first time since 2004.
Han pointed out that Chinese farmers face high costs and price ceilings, while over-exploitation of resources has rendered traditional farming practices untenable.
"We have to improve agricultural structure and management to make the sector's supply more responsive to the market and more productive," Han said, adding that the government will promote better and safer agricultural products, more cost-effective resource allocation and technological managerial innovation.
The government will continue to ensure zero growth of fertilizer use and work of a subsidy mechanism to encourage green agriculture.
Efforts will be made to develop technological solutions to agricultural productivity and to reform rural property rights, creating new entities in production and services.
Grain output dipped 0.8 percent in 2016, ending a 12-year rising streak, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.
The drop is a result of supply-side reform, as unbalanced supply and demand among grain varieties made many areas reduce corn planting in favor of soy and used the grain for feedstuff and oil, according to Huang Bingxin, a senior statistician with NBS.
Corn production will be further cut, and more high-quality dairy farms built. Specialty produce with local characteristics will be encouraged.
"Ensuring enough food for our people is the top priority for us," said Han, adding that China seeks no grain output increase, but will not allow big drops next year.
Three bottom lines of agricultural supply-side reform are no decline in grain production capacity, no change to the income growth trend for farmers, and no problems in rural stability, the statement said.