context: Long-term food security requires quality seed and farmland, so state is giving them high priority, as detailed by planning and pledges of bigger investment for 2021.

The key to ensuring food security lies in land and tech, according to a statement issued after the annual Central Economic Work Conference held on 16-18 December. Listing China’s 2021 economic priorities, the conference calls for the ag and rural sector to

  • carry out research on bottleneck technology to achieve a turnaround in the seed industry
    • strengthen the protection and utilisation of germplasm resources; build seed banks
    • promote industrialised breeding using biotechnology
  • protect and improve farmland
    • stick to the red line of 120 million hectares of farmland, curbing the ‘non-ag‘ and ‘non-grain‘ use of farmland
    • maintain the requisition-compensation balance for farmland
    • set up a national food security industrial belt
    • accelerate high-standard farmland construction
    • develop farmland irrigation systems
    • protect black soil
    • Improve the production capacity of grain and other key ag products
    • reduce nonpoint source pollution from ag production

Viewed as the ‘chip’ of ag production, seed is mentioned for the first time at one of these annual conferences, underscoring a new realisation of its importance in food security. China’s seed industry has made great progress, according to the national seed industry innovation conference, with

  • over 96 percent of cultivated land use going to improved crop varieties
  • over 95 percent of cultivated land use for domestically nurtured varieties
  • self-sufficiency rate of core breeding livestock/poultry varieties surpasses 75 percent
  • improved crop and livestock/poultry varieties’ contribution rates for enhanced production reach 45 and 40 percent respectively
  • 25 foreign-invested companies account for 3 percent of annual seed sales, while over 7,000 domestic producers dominate the market
  • imported seed takes up 0.1 percent of market share

The gap between the domestic and international seed industry mainly lies in seed breeding, the most fundamental area, comments Zhang Taolin 张桃林 MARA (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs) vice minister, adding that vegetable varieties, in particular, like those of pigs and cows, are inferior to foreign varieties.