context: Lockdowns on the movement of people to contain the spread of COVID-19 have raised fears that farmers will be unable to plough their fields and sow crops. To ensure food security, the Chinese government is now waging another battle—this one to secure the annual grain output.

On 3 Mar 2020, the Central Leading Group for Countering the COVID-19 Epidemic released ‘Notice on Guiding the Spring Planting Work’, asserting the determination to

  • stabilise grain planting areas, by
    • having provincial leaders take final responsibility for grain security
    • incentivising farmers with minimum purchasing prices, production subsidies, and ag insurance
    • guiding farmers to adjust planting structure, restore double-cropping rice in regions with suitable conditions, and expand planting areas of early season rice, as well as crop rotation
  • restore spring planting adjusted to different scales of epidemic risk
    • for low-risk areas: completely restore farming work while keeping an eye on introduced cases of COVID-19
    • for medium-risk areas: take turns to do farm work while preventing introduced cases and the internal spread of COVID-19
    • for high-risk areas: prioritise disease prevention before gradually restoring ag production
  • tailor spring planting preparations and water management to the needs of production areas, covering
    • rice seedling and transplanting in southern early rice areas
    • wheat field management in summer grain areas
    • rice seedling in the Yangtze River central rice area
    • land preparation in north China
    • irrigation arrangement and preparation in all areas
  • ensure ag input supplies by restoring production and transportation, as well as market supervision and product quality inspection
  • update irrigation facilities
  • strengthen the capability of meteorological- and bio-disaster forecasting, prevention and control
  • provide technical support for rural labour and agribusiness entities
  • make plans for ag machinery cross-regional operations and ensure testing and maintenance services