China promotes livestock farming to digest corn stocks

Photo: Reuters/File

Beijing/China – China wants to turn its grain basket in the northeast into a national meat and dairy production base, said the agriculture ministry on Thursday, as part of a broader plan to create stronger demand for the region’s main crops.

Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia account for around a quarter of China’s total grain output, but most of it has to be shipped to feed mills further south to supply the country’s hog and poultry farms.

Also, after years of subsidising corn planting, Beijing has been saddled with huge state stocks, estimated at more than 200 million tonnes – more than a year’s worth of consumption – and efforts to digest the reserves have had limited success.

“Accelerating the development of modern animal husbandry in the main producing areas of northeastern China is an urgent need to digest corn stocks and optimize the agricultural structure,” said the ministry in new guidelines on its website.

Bringing more pig, beef and dairy farms further north would also help reduce the impact of farm pollution in more populated regions along the coast, another major priority for the agriculture sector.

The ministry did not offer details on how it will get farmers to expand production in the northeast but said it wants the region to produce 15 percent of China’s meat and 40 percent of its milk by 2020.

Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang together accounted for about 17 percent of China’s dairy cattle, 15 percent of its beef cattle and 8 percent of its hog herd in 2015, according to official data.

By 2025, the livestock sector in the northeast should be fully modernised, and become China’s “national meat, egg and milk supply base” as well as a production centre for green products.

To supply the farms, the region should develop its feed processing sector and large-scale production of forage crops like silage corn and alfalfa, the agriculture ministry said.

The policy would also boost farm incomes in the region, where economic growth lags much of the rest of the country, it said.

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