(Yicai Global) Jan. 31 -- China's General Administration of Customs released its 2017 data for imports and exports on Jan. 23, showing that China is the world's largest rice and soybean importer and increased purchases of the grains last year.
The figures show that China's net imports of soybeans increased more than six-fold to over 95 million tons. Net rice imports topped 2.8 million tons and wheat imports reached more than 4.4 million tons. The National Food Security Policy Experts Advisory Committee responded by holding a meeting in Beijing on Jan. 26, running a special seminar on safeguarding national food security.
Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of China's Ministry of Science and Technology, interviewed two industry experts to gather their thoughts on the country's food security status.
China is capable of ensuring food security, said Xiao Guoying, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Subtropical Agriculture. His thoughts were based on net rice imports equaling about 2.7 percent of China's production last year, and net wheat imports about 3.3 percent.
The country has quotas on import and export volumes for rice and wheat, and if they're passed there is an import tax of more than 20 percent, said Wang Dayuan, first dean of the China National Rice Research Institute's bioengineering department. As a result, there will not be any major ups or downs, he believes. There are no restrictions on soybean trade, and that's imports are so high.
"Importing grain and ensuring food security is the right strategy and should not be disrupted," Xiao said. He admitted that China's farms cannot keep up with the nation's standard of living and that the country has lost the soybean industry, but believes it can still guarantee food security.
Wang believes soybean imports are mainly used as food for livestock to meet demand for meat, eggs and milk. However, changes to import rules could restrict incoming soybeans and affect people's livelihoods, he added, saying there are potential dangers hidden behind the vast soybean imports and that the government's response will be critical.