Government to boost seed industry

Updated: 2013-01-29 07:27

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)

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China has vowed to boost its seed industry over the next decade to ensure grain stocks grow, amid fears that limited arable land and water may become constraints for agricultural production.

The five main staples - rice, wheat, corn, soybean and potato - and 15 varieties of cash crop have been listed as important fields for cultivating new varieties by 2020, according to a development plan by the General Office of the State Council.

Production bases for staple seeds will be established in northwestern and southwestern regions, as well as Hainan province, by 2015, the plan says.

China recorded grain output of more than 589 million metric tons in 2012. It was the ninth consecutive year of increased grain harvests, the Ministry of Agriculture said.

The use of top-quality seed varieties have contributed to bumper grain harvests in recent years, such as the planting of super hybrid rice, Ma Shuping, an official in charge of seed management at the ministry, told a news conference on Monday.

But insufficient innovation, weak market competitiveness among domestic seed companies and loopholes in seed management still hamper the seed industry's development, she said.

"It's urgent for China to breed more new varieties of agricultural products to break the shackles of resource constraints for future grain growth," she said.

Statistics from the ministry show the country now has 6,296 seed companies, down from 8,700 in 2011. Of the companies, 59 have registered capital of 100 million yuan ($16 million).

"It's good to see that the number of small seed companies with substandard products has decreased gradually," Ma said. "The government will continue to give more support to big producers who have the capability to undertake scientific research in the future."

Meanwhile, China saw 25 registered joint ventures and foreign-owned companies in its seed market - four companies are in corn seeds, one in cotton seeds, and others are developing business in vegetable and flower seeds, according to the ministry.

China's imports of agricultural seeds also remain at about 15,000 tons every year, including vegetable and beet seeds, the ministry said.

"China is leading the world in some fields of breeding new varieties of crops, such as rice and cotton," said Lu Bu, a researcher in agricultural resources and regional planning at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

"More work should be done on cultivating anti-drought and pest-resistant seeds, and to improve the tastes of agricultural products," he said.

Lu urged authorities to step up efforts to crack down on the sale of fake seeds, saying the enthusiasm of farmers can be badly dampened due to economic losses from planting such seeds.