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Minister Han Changfu Meets Press at 1st Session of 13th NPC

DATE:2018-03-29       SOURCE:MOA Information Office
 

 Implementation of Rural Vitalization Strategy and Promotion of Transformation and Upgrading of Agriculture

  Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu Meets Press at 1st Session of 13th NPC

 

 

 

On the morning of March 7th, 2018, the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress held a press conference at the Press Center based in the Beijing Media Center Hotel. Chinese Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu and Spokesperson and Director-General of the General Office of the Ministry Pan Xianzheng answered questions on implementation of the rural vitalization strategy and promotion of transformation and upgrading of agriculture.

 

Moderator:

 

Dear members of the press, good morning. Welcome to the press conference of the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress. We are honored to have invited Chinese Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu and Spokesperson and Director-General of the General Office of the Ministry Pan Xianzheng to take your questions related to implementation of the rural vitalization strategy and promotion of transformation and upgrading of agriculture.

  

 

Han Changfu:

 

Friends from the media, good morning. It is my great pleasure to be here again at this annual meeting to exchange ideas with you. I would like to thank you for your long-term care and support for our work on agriculture, rural areas, and rural residents. General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed to pursue a rural vitalization strategy in the report to the 19th Party Congress and Premier Li Keqiang laid down detailed plans yesterday in the government work report. The rural vitalization strategy and agricultural transformation and upgrading will be the central themes of our work in the time to come. Considering your great concern about the issues, Mr. Pan Xianzheng and I are ready to take your questions.

 

Economic Daily:

 

We have seen strong public interest in the rural vitalization strategy put forward at the 19th Party Congress and rural residents all have high hopes for this strategy. This year’s government work report also made arrangements on rural vitalization. So my question is, what needs to be done to achieve this goal and how does the vitalized rural area look like in your mind?

 

Han Changfu:

 

The proposal to implement the rural vitalization strategy at the 19th Party Congress and the arrangements on the strategy made in this year’s government work report have clearly demonstrated the great importance the CPC Central Committee has attached to agricultural and rural development. Implementing the rural vitalization strategy is not only the key focus of our work on agriculture, rural area, and rural residents for a new era but also an ambitious blueprint drawn by the central government. As far as I know, the strategy has been actively responded by people from all walks of life, especially those rural residents who have been delighted and inspired. It remains immensely popular among the people. You may also be familiar with the central government’s plan to build rural areas with thriving businesses, pleasant living environment, social etiquette and civility, effective governance, and prosperity. It is a clarified and detailed plan aimed to strengthen points of weakness in building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round manner. In my view, it embodies the efforts of the rural sector to achieve the goal of developing China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.

 

As for how to put into practice this strategy and the arrangements of the central government to push forward rural vitalization, we are still in the process of researching and planning. Recently, the ministry has launched a survey of rural households. A total of 120 officials have been sent to 60 villages across 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities to carry out one-month investigations. Their major task is to carry out panoramic investigations into rural areas, especially rural communities, to fully understand the political, economic, cultural, ecological and social landscapes and the development of community-level organizations there, so as to provide first-hand information for the implementation of the rural vitalization strategy.

 

Efforts are now being made by various parties to formulate plans to press ahead with the rural vitalization strategy. I have noticed some related news and seen your concerns about this issue from previous press conferences. Generally speaking, we should give priority to the following “three major issues”:

 

First, major plans should be formulated. As a long-term strategic task, rural vitalization requires the guidance of scientific planning due to the tremendous differences between rural villages in China and the unprecedented changes facing us. Led by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and involving the ministry and some other departments, planning is currently underway. In general, planning should be made in accordance with the requirements of the “Five-Pronged Overall Plan,” focusing on industrial development, rural layout, land use, infrastructure, and public services. Once a clear blueprint is drawn, we should stick to it to the end.

 

Second, major policies should be introduced. Rural vitalization embodies the central government’s important guiding principle of strengthening points of weakness. As a weak link, rural development needs the support of a wide range of policies, including policies for “urban areas to support rural development and industries to promote agriculture.” At a central rural work conference, General Secretary Xi Jinping suggested that agriculture and rural areas should be prioritized in leadership selection, resource allocation, public financial support and public services. Centering around the guiding principles and general requirements, we need to study and introduce relevant policies and promote institutional innovation, to strengthen the dynamism of rural development.

 

Third, major actions should be taken. The vision of farmer-centered development should be put into practice. Rural vitalization requires a large amount of investment and practical efforts. Generally speaking, we should adopt a problem-oriented approach and deal with our points of weakness. At present, we are planning and will gradually launch some major actions. For instance, we will implement a three-year plan to improve rural living environment so as to create a beautiful homeland that is clean and fresh. We will act to promote the industry-driven development of villages and counties by creating an array of industries that are able to enrich people and proper counties because industrial development and productivity always come first. We will also carry out a three-year plan on targeted poverty alleviation to solve the problems for people living in poverty. In the three aspects, we will take specific measures.

 

The prospect of rural vitalization is promising. We may put it this way: first, rural vitalization could make agriculture a hopeful industry. Future agriculture will not only provide job opportunities, but will also become a heated topic, a promising area and a source of profits. Second, rural vitalization will make farming an attractive career. When it comes to farmers, we usually think of people toiling in the field. With technical advancement and industrial development in the future, however, farming will become a coveted career. We should remake the title of farming into a profession. To become a farmer will be difficult in the future. Third, rural areas will be transformed into beautiful places where rural people can live and work in peace. Rural residents will enjoy not only public facilities and services available now in urban areas, but also beautiful environment and sceneries of the countryside. Rural areas will be sought after like rare resources and become dream places of urban residents. Of course, this takes time to happen, but I believe it will happen finally.

 

CBN Daily:

 

My question is about grain prizes. The year 2016 saw a plunge in corn prices. In response, the central government took some measures to reduce inventory and adjust structure. As a result, corn prices began to rebound last year. What’s your take on that? And this year, the minimum purchase prices of wheat and rice were both revised down. My question is, will that dampen the famers’ enthusiasm in growing grain?

 

Han Changfu:

 

You have raised a hot issue. The prices of agricultural products, especially gain price, not only play a critical role in increasing farmers’ income and enthusiasm, but also serve as a guideline for production. Generally speaking, reforms will be carried out mainly in the directions of grain purchase and market-based pricing, with the aim of bringing into full play the decisive role of the market in resource allocation and allowing prices to guide production, supply and demand adjustment, and import control. The question you have just mentioned shows us that price reform should be carefully planned to take into account both the government and farmers, both domestic and overseas markets, and both purchase and processing. We need to strike an overall balance to ensure the steady progress of reforms.

 

In 2016, the policy on the temporary purchasing and stockpiling of corn was cancelled, and by allowing the market to determine prices and delinking subsidies from prices, mechanisms for setting corn prices and subsidy systems for corn growers were established. Achievements made after the reform of the policy on corn purchase and storage are outstanding. The market has been invigorated, the processing industry has been promoted, inventory has been released, and imports reduced. Practices show that reform is a general trend that has brought about multiple benefits.

 

We have also noticed the rebound of corn prices. The average corn price is 0.01 yuan higher than last year, and in some places, the figure is even larger. As corn price rebound, people in some places want to grow more corn. But I do not suggest blindly expanding the scale of corn growing because the current corn inventory remains high while the corn price on the international market is low. Areas without unique advantages or areas that are not suitable to grow corn should not reverse the trend. Over the past two years, we have made some reductions, and as a next step, we will continue our efforts on structural adjustment and promote the development of multiple marketable varieties.

 

As for the prices of rice and wheat, since rice supply is a little higher than demanded while the supply and demand of wheat is basically balanced, there arises an opportunity for reform. The minimum purchase prices of the two products are cut down this year to further clarify the pricing mechanism to make prices of wheat and rice closer to the market.

 

As for whether farmers’ enthusiasm will be dampened or production impacted, to be honest, I think there will be some minor impacts. According to what we know, first, wheat and rice as grain rations have received extensive attention from different parties; second, China has been dedicated to the development of high-standard farmland that produces good wheat and rice yields in times of drought or excessive rain. Farmers growing wheat and rice will still be profited and significant reductions will not be made.

 

Price cut will exert certain impacts upon farmers, and we have been aware of their responses. While reducing purchase prices, we have also provided direct subsidies for grain-growing farmers to make up for losses they may suffer. The purchase prices of indica rice and japonica rice have been cut by 0.1 to 0.2 yuan. The decreases in income resulting from the price cuts will be borne by the government in an attempt to protect farmers’ enthusiasm. As a next step, we will encourage farmers into areas we are not good at, such as growing quality rice, strong gluten wheat, and weak gluten wheat. In addition, we will also speed up efforts to improve supporting mechanisms such as subsidy and insurance mechanisms to protect farmers’ enthusiasm.

 

Above all, as Premier Li Keqiang suggested in this year’s government work report, we should ensure stable and optimized grain output. This is the direction of our future work and a task we should accomplish.

 

A reporter from Gambia:

 

My question is, agriculture is an important sector for my country in particular and Africa in general, what are some of the stories that Africa can learn from China in enhancing food self-sufficiency? The other issue is about China’s reform and opening-up policy to the world. What can Africa expect from China in improving agricultural productivity in Africa?

 

Han Changfu:

 

Thank you for your questions. China and Gambia are friendly countries and China-Africa relations are very close. Your two questions about food self-sufficiency are related to food security. To address the problem of food security to ensure adequate food for over 1.3 billion people in China is always a matter of top priority in governing the country.

 

China has attached great importance to food security. Especially since reform and opening up in 1978, a series of policies has been introduced, including the household contract responsibility system and other major reform measures, and efforts have been made to promote technological progress, substantial input, farmland irrigation and water conservation, and mechanized farming. China’s food productivity has reached 600 billion kilograms, enough to satisfy people’s need for food. Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has said that China’s success in solving the food problem has helped finish half of his task.

 

One of the issues you have mentioned is food self-sufficiency in Africa. Africa as a whole has not yet solved the problems of food safety and food security, and there are over 800 million people still faced with inadequate food and clothing. In this respect, China has carried out friendly cooperation with African countries. For example, China has built agricultural technology extension and demonstration centers in 14 African countries to display our technologies to our friends in Africa. We have also helped African countries, especially those least developed countries, to train agricultural technicians. We have dispatched experts to Africa and invited African agricultural technicians and management officials in the agricultural sector to come to China for study and visits. We have also provided some African countries with assistance of agricultural machineries, fertilizers and pesticides. These measures have played an active role in Africa’s agricultural sector, especially in food production. We will continue with such efforts. Our agricultural cooperation with African countries and assistance in food security to African countries are sincere without any additional conditions.

 

As for your second question, I am glad to share some experience about China’s rural reforms and development. Since reform and opening up, China has accumulated some experience in areas such as agricultural, food, and rural development. We have explored basic systems in agriculture and rural area, especially the land system, from which experience has been drawn. We are willing to share such experience with our African countries and friends through various channels. Now that national conditions differ from one country to another, China’s experience and practices can be used for reference only. We hope our African countries and friends, especially those in the least developed countries, could achieve food security as soon as possible and live a better life.

 

China.com.cn:

 

Not long ago, the Ministry of Agriculture launched the “Year of Better Quality in Agriculture” campaign in Fujian province, which aims to shift the focus of agricultural development from quantity to quality. My question is, is that goal achievable and how does such a vision look like?

 

Han Changfu:

 

Thank you for your question and sensitivity. The first meeting of the ministry in 2018 was held in Fujian Province with the theme of improving the quality of agricultural development. At the meeting in Fujian, we decided to make 2018 a “Year of Better Quality in Agriculture.” But our efforts to improve agricultural quality are not made only in this year alone; instead, 2018 only marks a good starting point. Our proposal to shift focus from quantity to quality represents a major change in our guiding principles. As the old saying goes, we should sing different songs on different mountains. Since the reform and opening up, especially since the 18th Party Congress, China’s agriculture has developed at an increasingly faster pace. Tremendous changes have taken place in areas such as food productivity, agricultural modernization, farmers’ income, and agricultural restructuring. The situation in 1978 or the early 21st-century is not comparable to the agricultural landscape today. In the past, we had 800 million people lacking access to food, but now there is a food surplus for 1.4 billion people. This is a marvelous change for our country.

 

In the past, for the purpose of obtaining adequate food and clothing, we tried every means to improve production. To this end, we reclaimed farmland to create more area for planting and reclaimed farmland from lakes. We had no other choices then. Our focus was on how to increase the quantity of food. Over the past few years, thanks to our hard work, we have made profound achievements. Quantity is not a problem anymore. Agricultural development has entered a new stage at which the major focus is on the improvement of quality. With accumulated development, we have conditions to realize a quality-oriented shift. That is why we have proposed the shift. This idea has also been put forward by General Secretary Xi Jinping at a central rural work conference with the aim of invigorating agriculture by relying on quality and green development.

 

To improve agricultural quality, we will prioritize three types of shift: First, we will accelerate the shift of the orientation of agricultural policies from increasing quantity to improving quality. We will also work with the Ministry of Finance to establish policies on financial subsidies that are oriented toward green development. Second, we will shift development modes from extensive operation dependent on resource consumption toward sustainable development that saves energy. Third, we will use agricultural technology in pursuit of quality, efficiency and ecological progress instead of quantity. These are some requirements for transformation and upgrading of agricultural development, as well as answers to your questions about where and how agricultural transformation and upgrading will take place.

 

In line with such directions and requirements, China’s agriculture is expected to improve from the current level. Generally speaking, our development goal and transformation should achieve “six highs”: First, products should be of high quality. Green and brand-name agricultural products should be increased in number and improved in quality to satisfy consumers’ individual and diversified needs. Second, industrial profits should be high. We should make production more cost-effective and the space of growth for agriculture larger. Third, production efficiency should be high. We should make agricultural production greener and improve labor productivity, land output, and the efficiency of resource use. Fourth, agricultural operators should be of high quality. New types of professional farmers will be trained to become the major force of agricultural production and operation. Appropriately scaled and diversified farming operations will play a leading role in modern agricultural development. Fifth, international competitiveness should be high. As a major country in agriculture, China has occupied a position in the international market for its agricultural products, and its agricultural trade is commensurate with its international standing as a major country. Sixth, farmers’ income should be high. In rural vitalization, a wealthy life and a moderately prosperous society depend on farmers. Therefore, we should improve the revenue of new types of operating entities and ensure a decent income of small-scale farming households. If we can realize the “six highs,” agricultural transformation and upgrading and China’s agriculture for a new era will have a more promising future.

 

CCTV:

 

In the Report to the 19th CPC National Congress, it says that the current round of rural land contracts will be extended for another 30 years upon their expiration. What significance does that carry? And with the extension, how about the newly added population without prior land contracts? And also, will farmers’ contracted land be taken back if they get urban residency? How does the ministry respond to those questions?

 

Han Changfu:

 

You have raised an important question. As far as I remember, when General Secretary Xi Jinping talked about extending the current round of rural land contracts for another 30 years upon expiration, the audience gave him a big round of applause. This reaction not only reflects people’s concern about the land system but also their support for the central government’s decisions. The extension of rural land contracts is a major institutional arrangement that embodies political wisdom, a big package of preferential policies presented to our farmers.

 

The extension of the current round of land contracts for another 30 years upon expiration is of profound significance in at least the following aspects:

 

First, the land-contracting relationship in rural areas will remain stable. Since the reform and opening up, China has launched two rounds of rural land contracts. As we all know, the first round of land contracts began with a 15-year term which has been extended for 30 years and which will be extended for another 30 years in the current round, making the land-contracting relationship in rural areas valid for a total of 75 years. This indicates not only “a stable relationship” but also the fact that basic rural operation systems such as the collective ownership of land and the household contract system will remain unchanged. This also sends farmers a clear message of reassurance. Both farmers with contracted land and new types of operational entities with transferred land could have more predictable expectations.

 

Second, the extension of land contracts will promote various forms of appropriately scaled farming operation. As we all know, the most significant characteristic of modern agriculture is appropriately scaled farming. To meet the need of land transfer, the central government has introduced measures for separating rural land ownership rights, contract rights, and management rights. The extension of land contracts for another 30 years is a dialectical unity of “instability” and “stability.” As major institutional innovation in rural reform, the extension not only satisfies farmers’ need for a stable land-contracting relationship but also grants them land-transfer rights. It is conductive to the development of multiple forms of appropriately scaled farming operation to boost modern agriculture.

 

Third, the policy arrangement is highly in line with the second centenary goal in terms of the time they will be achieved. The 30-year extension of the current round of land contracts will come to an end at a time close to the deadline of the second centenary goal of fully building a modern socialist country whose economic structure, social structure, urban and rural population composition, urban and rural relations, and industrial and agricultural relations will be tremendously different. Extending land contracts for another 30 years stabilizes farmers’ expectations and provides room for future policy improvement. That is what I mean by “an institutional arrangement of political wisdom.” After the reform was put forward at the 19th CPC National Congress, the ministry has been studying and formulating detailed policies and measures in accordance with requirements of the central government to ensure a stable transition of policy implementation and coordination.

 

The two issues you have mentioned also concern our farmers. How to take into account changes in population is a major issue. In the current round of land contracts, some people have not acquired any land for several reasons. For example, some of them are newly added population without prior land contracts, and some others are not involved in the extension of land contracts because they have gone out of hometown for work due to low grain prices and agricultural income. You have also mentioned how to deal with contracted land if rural families get urban residency. The ministry is studying this issue. We will cooperate with related departments to revise relevant laws and regulations and study detailed policies, to guide local governments to solve the problem appropriately.

 

As for the amount of land, the general principle is to maintain stability and make minor adjustments. We should respect farmers’ will and solve the problem through democratic consultation among village collectives under the leadership of the government. Overall, the amount of contracted land should be stabilized.

 

I would like to point out that the solution to the contradiction between people and land lies not entirely in subdividing or equally dividing limited land resources because China is a populous country with insufficient land. Dividing land plots will make our land increasingly smaller. The contradiction between people and land cannot be eliminated for good. We need to promote industrialization and urbanization, encourage rural workers to find jobs in nonagricultural sectors through multiple channels, and improve social security systems, to solve this problem comprehensively.

 

According to existing policies, families obtaining urban residency can choose to return their contracted land or not. They are encouraged to give their land back to village collectives in return for compensation. When the second round of land contract expires, we will solve such problems in accordance with law and farmers’ collective will.

 

Xinhua News Agency:

 

Over the past years, we’ve seen strong measures of structural adjustment in agriculture, including cutting more than 50 million mu of corn production over the past two years and this year’s target of reducing rice plantation. Does that mean we no longer need so much grain production? And is supply-side structural reform in agriculture mainly about cutting grain production?

 

Han Changfu:

 

Over the past few years, China has seen continued bumper grain harvests, new changes to the supply-demand relationship, and a period of coexistence of oversupply with insufficient supply of some grain varieties. Currently, China’s grain inventory is at a historic high. To solve this problem, we have actively pushed forward supply-side structural reform in agriculture according to plans laid down by the central government. Over the past two years, we have made appropriate reductions to the amount of land devoted to growing corn, especially in the sickle-shape area. A cumulative amount of 50 million mu of planting area has been cut. At the same time, however, 19 million mu of soybeans, 10 million mu of coarse cereals, and over 10 million mu of land for growing silage corn and replacing grain crop with feed crop cultivation, have been added. The overall effects are positive and a reasonable structure is taking shape.

 

Rice is also excessive in amount, especially in Northeast China where the inventory of japonica rice is high. We need to make adjustment in accordance with supply and demand on the market. Priority should be given to cutting rice production that consumes too many resources or in areas without unique advantages. Such adjustment does not mean that we no longer need grain production. As General Secretary Xi Jinping has put forward, Chinese people should hold their bowls in their own hands and their bowls should be filled with food produced in China. Pushing ahead with supply-side structural reform in agriculture, including appropriately reducing corn and rice production, is not an attempt to give up grain production but to make production meet market demand. Reductions and additions should be made together. While stabilizing and optimizing grain production, we also need to improve product structure, quality structure and industrial structure and shift our focus from quantity to quality, so as to make the balance between agricultural supply and demand on a higher level.

 

In the next step, we will not only make structural adjustment but also work to ensure food security. We have a few thoughts as follows:

 

First, we will make unswerving efforts to stabilize production capacity and grain production. According to changes in supply and demand, we will pursue stability of production capacity instead of annual production. By “stability of production capacity,” I mean grain can be produced and remain available when it is needed. We will stick to the strategic bottom line that basic self-sufficiency in cereal grains and absolute grain security are guaranteed. We will also increase food crop production based on farmland management and the application of technology. As Premier Li Keqiang pointed out in this year’s government work report, 80 million mu of high-standard farmland will be developed in 2018. It is planned that by 2020, China will have built 800 million to 1,000 million mu of high-standard farmland and developed 900 million mu of functional zones for grain production in an effort to ensure grain production in major production areas and areas with unique advantages. Technologically, we will promote agricultural mechanization, promote high-quality, efficient and green production technology, establish mechanisms for subsidizing major grain-producing areas, and protect the initiative of local governments to oversee grain production and farmers’ enthusiasm for grain growing.

 

Second, we will continue efforts to optimize grain production structure. However special it may be, grain is after all a commodity. Grain production, especially the structure of grain varieties, should be adjusted to changes in the market.

 

Third, we will establish the concepts of big agriculture and big food, and promote overall development of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, and fisheries. Nowadays, with the improvement of people’s living standard, less staple food is eaten while more meat, eggs and milk are consumed. But the latter are converted from the former. We need to vigorously develop meat, milk, poultry, aquatic products, edible fungi, vegetables, and fruits to better satisfy people’s needs.

 

Famers’ Daily:

 

Minister Han, you once said that agriculture is about ensuring food for the Chinese people, about generating income for rural residents, and about providing greenery for urban residents. While it seems that the first two are accomplished pretty well, in terms of providing greenery or a good environment, the reality is still falling short of people’s expectations. My question is, what will the ministry do to promote green agricultural development?

 

Han Changfu:

 

I have said that before. Agriculture is about ensuring food for the Chinese people, about generating income for rural residents, and about providing greenery for urban residents. All of the three priorities are important, neither of which should be relaxed. But green agricultural development now is pressing. As General Secretary Xi Jinping has said, promoting green agricultural development is a profound reform of the outlook on agricultural development. We should keep firmly in mind the concept that clear rivers and green mountains are as valuable as mountains of gold and silver in agricultural development and innovate the way of production, production technologies, and institutions, so as to make agriculture green again.

 

In accordance with the advice on green development put forward by General Secretary Xi Jinping at a meeting of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, the ministry is taking the following measures:

 

First, we should improve systems of green development. Eco-oriented systems should be established for agriculture subsidizing and reasonable use of resources. Last year, special funds were provided by the central government in support of trials of crop rotation in Northeast China and trials of fallow land in the groundwater funnel area of Hebei province and in the heavy metal contaminated area of Hunan province. Positive results have been achieved. According to this year’s government work report, we have expanded trials of crop rotation and fallow land to cover 30 million mu of land. On the one hand, the area of fallow land should be further expanded, and on the other hand, systems should be built for crop rotation and fallow land.

 

Second, we should strengthen the support of green technologies. In the past, our scientific and technological R&D was centered on increasing production, but the priorities and directions of scientific and technological innovation should be adjusted in the future. Great efforts will be made in support of the development of green and environmentally-friendly technologies that help save costs, improve efficiency, and ensure high quality and safety, with the aim of meeting the requirements of green development.

 

Third, we should carry out an array of major actions for green development. The ministry is currently implementing the five major actions for green agricultural development, namely actions to recycle waste from livestock, actions to replace chemical fertilizers with organic fertilizers for fruit, vegetables and tea, actions to dispose of straw and recover plastic sheeting in Northeast China, and actions to protect aquatic organism mainly in the Yangtze River. We will also work with relevant departments to explore experience of green agricultural development in 40 cities and counties that have been previously identified as pilot areas, in an attempt to promote green agricultural development across China.

 

China Food Safety Network:

 

We know that the residue of antibiotics during breeding is monitored by agricultural authorities. My question is, how is the monitoring going on? And will the data be released?

 

Han Changfu:

 

This is an issue concerning food safety, which I have mentioned several times. So I will leave this question to Mr. Pan Xianzheng.

 

Pan Xianzheng:

 

The ministry has given top priority to the monitoring of antibiotics during breeding. Insisting that production and management should be combined and that both symptoms and root causes should be addressed, we have rolled out a range of strong measures for monitoring, which could provide a one-two punch and comprehensively address the problem of veterinary antibiotics. Efforts are made mainly in the following four aspects:

 

First, we have conducted strict access control. Access to antibiotics is strictly controlled and major antibiotics for human use, growth-promoting antibiotics, antibiotics inclined to accumulate excessive residues, and antibiotics liable to cross-resistance are not permitted to be used for veterinary drug production.

 

Second, we have strengthened risk assessment. We have insisted that veterinary drugs with hidden danger should be discarded. Over the past three years, we have prohibited the use of eight types of veterinary antibiotics on food-producing animals and one type for promoting the growth of animals.

 

Third, we have stepped up comprehensive efforts. A series of focused actions has been launched to tackle the problem of veterinary residue exceeding stipulated standards, and growth-promoting veterinary antibiotics have been phased out.

 

Fourth, we have carried out intelligent monitoring. Specifically, the national platform providing basic information about veterinary drugs and the traceability management system based on veterinary drugs’ QR codes have been improved, with which the sources of veterinary drugs are checkable and traceable and their whereabouts and usages can be managed and controlled. In 2017, we monitored residues in pork and other animal products left by 70 types in 14 categories of drugs with antibiotics included, of which 99.7% met required standards. The ministry will remain committed to monitoring residues of veterinary drugs and drug resistance, promoting the traceability management of the production, operation and usage of veterinary drugs, and guiding breeders to use less and better drugs, in an effort to ensure the safety of our animal products.

 

Han Changfu:

 

As regards improving the quality and safety of agricultural products, we will make unswerving and unremitting efforts.

 

Reuters:

 

I’ve got two questions. First, according to the 13th Five-Year Plan on the development of science and technology, by 2020, China will achieve the commercialization of genetically modified corn. So does that mean that China has approved some varieties of genetically modified corn and is preparing to grow them to gain more needs? Is that possible in the near future? Or in other words, will the goal laid out in the13th Five-Year Plan be achieved? My second question is regarding the time of approving safety certificates for imported genetically modified soybeans. It seems that the time of approval is pretty long, and some enterprises say that it means the approval for genetically-modified corn will be harder to obtain. Why such high difficulty and is it related to the China-US trade frictions?

 

Han Changfu:

 

Genetic modification is raised every time a press conference is held. And I have talked about this issue several times. I would like to invite our spokesperson Mr. Pan Xianzheng to answer your questions.

 

Pan Xianzheng:

 

Thank you for your questions. Your first question is about how to extend the commercialization of genetically modified crops. The ministry has answered this question on several occasions. In summary, there are three points I want to make: First, we hold a clear and consistent position on the management of genetically modified crops. Safety evaluation and safety management are carried out strictly in accordance with laws and regulations. Only after passing such safety evaluation can an enterprise obtain a safety certificate for production and application of genetically modified crops. Second, the roadmap of non-edible crops, indirectly-edible crops, and edible crops will be followed. We will develop non-edible cash crops such as cotton, fodder crops and crops used as raw materials, ordinary edible crops, and edible crops such as subsistence crops, successively. Third, we will give due consideration to industrial demand and solve bottlenecks restricting China’s agricultural development in areas such as disease and pest resistance, water conservation, drought resistance, high yields and high quality. As regards the commercialization of genetically modified corn, we will carry out work according to the above three requirements. At present, China has only approved commercialized production of genetically modified cotton and papaya, while commercialized cultivation of genetically modified grain crops has not yet been approved.

 

Your second question is about the issuance of safety certificates to commodities involved in foreign trade. Our policies on approval and issuance of safety certificates to traders have not been changed. Approval is carried out in a lawful and scientific manner. Standards, procedures and time of approval have not been changed either.

 

The reason why some companies have not been granted approval is that their application documents do not meet our requirements and have not reached our experts for evaluation. The approval is strict and follows certain procedures, in which experts are involved to carry out rigorous evaluations. As long as a company applies in accordance with our requirements, safety certificates will be issued.

 

My question is about homesteads in rural areas. Now many urban residents want to buy homesteads in a rural area. Is that allowed? Can you elaborate on the reform regarding homesteads in rural areas?

 

Han Changfu:

 

You have raised a hot issue that concern people in general and urban residents in particular. I would like to answer your questions from the following three perspectives:

 

First, urban residents are not allowed to buy homesteads in rural areas to build houses. Homesteads belong to village collectives, the use rights of which can only be obtained according to laws and regulations by members of rural collective economic organizations. The rights are enjoyed by members of rural collective economic organizations. Since one household can only have one homestead in principle, urban people are not allowed to buy homesteads according to existing policies. Urban residents are also not allowed to buy a homestead if they want to build a villa or a private club on the homestead. This is stipulated by our national law. The ownership of homesteads belongs to collectives and qualification rights belong to members of collective economic organizations.

 

Second, unused houses in rural areas are precious resources. Now there are hollowing-out phenomena in some rural areas, of which the phenomenon of unused houses is outstanding. Some houses are used only when their owners come back to spend the Spring Festival. It is a big waste to leave unused houses to idle and decay. In addition, many urban residents starting a business in rural areas are in need of unused houses. If unused houses can be made good use of, not only will farmers’ income be increased, but entrepreneurs in rural area will also be provided with places for starting a business. This question merits research.

 

Third, separating “three types of rights” is a direction or way of dealing with homesteads. Contracted land in rural areas has realized such separation, namely the separation of the ownership rights, contract rights and management rights. This way of separation can be applied to the use of homesteads or unused houses. In this year’s No. 1 Central Document, it is put forward that policies regarding unused homesteads and houses should be improved and that efforts should be made to separate the ownership rights, qualification rights and use rights. While maintaining that the ownership rights of homesteads belong to farmers’ collectives and that qualification rights belong to members of collective economic organizations, we should lift some restrictions over the use rights of homesteads.

 

With the strengthening of China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership of coordination, now increasing agricultural cooperation between the two countries is also receiving stronger public interest. Many Chinese businesses are investing in the agricultural sector in Russia. Russia also hopes to export more agricultural products to China. My question is, what measures will the Ministry of Agriculture take to boost agricultural cooperation between China and Russia?

 

Han Changfu:

 

China and Russia are good neighbors, good partners and good friends that have established strategic partnerships and carried out extensive economic and trade cooperation, in which agricultural cooperation plays an important part. We have achieved constructive outcomes from our cooperation and boast a lot of cooperative strengths. China attaches great importance to agricultural cooperation between China and Russia and has actively supported businesses to carry out cooperation in this respect. With regard to trade, bilateral trade volume of agricultural products between China and Russia reached over USD4 billion last year. China imported from Russia a large number of marine products, oilseeds, and grains from Russia and exported fruits, vegetables, and freshwater products. Thanks to bilateral trade, food on the table of peoples of the two countries has been diversified. There is still huge room for our future cooperation. Chinese and Russian ministries of agriculture are jointly compiling a plan for agricultural development in Northeast China, the Russian Far East, and the Lake Baikal region. The introduction of this plan will provide better guidance for bilateral agricultural cooperation and deliver more benefits to agricultural product trade and bilateral investment. In short, we are looking forward to future China-Russia agricultural cooperation, including cooperation in investment, trade and technical staff.

 

Reporter from Sierra Leone with China-Africa Press Center:

 

I got a few questions to ask. First of all, I want to know the tons of rice that are being exported to Africa and I also want to know the safety of the rice that is sent. And also how would that help to push forward food security? I got a report in my country, for example, Sierra Leone, that there is “plastic rice” manufactured in China and exported to Sierra Leone, my country, for example. So I want to know if it is true or not? If it is true, what are the reasons for that? And what is the value of some of the “plastic rice” that you have manufactured? I also want to confirm. We had learnt that China donated so much rich to my country Sierra Leone. I also want to confirm if it is true. And what are the reasons for that and how would that help my country? And also, Africa as a whole has been looking up to China because the bilateral relationship now has strengthened. We’ve seen so many Chinese investments in the area of agriculture. We are very keen to know what is your support for the agricultural sector in our country? You are the growing and producing country, you are feeding yourself, and you are sending it to Africa. So what are some of the techniques you are using for farming? How would that help Africa realize self-sufficiency?

 

Han Changfu:

 

Due to time limit, I will answer your questions briefly. First, China and Sierra Leone are in friendly relations and I have visited Sierra Leone as the special envoy of President Xi Jinping. China attaches great importance to strengthening agricultural cooperation with Africa and Sierra Leone. We are willing to do more and better in this respect on the basis of what we have achieved. Second, rice manufactured in China is safe. The “plastic rice” you have heard about is by no means possible.

 

As regards how to cooperate, over the past few years, we have been strengthening agricultural technical assistance, staff training, and policy exchange for Africa, in an attempt to help develop its agriculture and help local people achieve food security. In the future, we will further enhance our cooperation. We are willing to share experience of agricultural development. As far as I know, Sierra Leone has sent agricultural technical staff and management officials to China for visits and study. Please convey the greetings and wishes of the Chinese people to people of Sierra Leone.

 

Moderator:

 

Thank you, today’s press conference is over. Thank you, Minister Han and Director-General Pan. I would also like to thank our dear friends from the media for your participation.

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