| BEIJING, March 8
BEIJING, March 8 China's second-largest
corn-producing region has asked Beijing for more financial aid
as farmers struggle with low prices and bulging stocks a year
after the government ditched its decade-long buying policy and
efforts to boost demand stumble.
Profits have fallen even after the central government doled
out 39 billion yuan ($5.7 billion) of subsidies in 2016 to
farmers in the northeast corn belt last year.
Beijing has tried to pass the financial burden of
buttressing its grain farmers and major corn users to regional
authorities, and analysts reckon government support will fall
Local governments have issued subsidies to corn processors
and feed makers, hoping to cushion farmers from reform shock.
But parliamentary delegates and analysts say it won't be
enough to offset the drop in prices and absence of a minimum
"The corn prices are lower than what the policies intended,
so I suggest we appropriately increase corn subsidies ... to
protect corn farmers' profits," said Guo Naishuo, a delegate
from Jilin to the National People's Congress, China's
Farmers in the northeast now make about 300 yuan less for
each mu (0.06 hectare) of corn they grow than a year ago, said
Xi Yinsheng, of the Research Centre for Rural Economy under
China's Ministry of Agriculture, the China Times reported.
Jilin's woes illustrate the challenges for Beijing as it
scrambles to cut a corn glut by inventing uses for the grain
such as biodegradable plastics, ensure food supplies for its
growing urban population and secure livelihoods of millions of
"With such huge stocks, we must think of ways to digest them
in a couple of years," Chen Xiwen, a leading agricultural policy
adviser, told Reuters.
The end of the state reserve programme has left Beijing with
about 230 million tonnes of corn, he said, equal to a year of
demand. Most of it is too old to be used for human consumption.
One way is to promote the nation's polylactide sector, which
turns corn starch and cassava into biodegradable plastic
products such as bags and plates, as well as boosting production
Others measures include using corn to make a sweetener
called xylitol, and degradable films used in greenhouses, Chen
But so far, these fledgling efforts haven't led to a big
jump in consumption of the crop, experts said.
At the same time as the government is looking for new
channels for its corn, it is urging farmers to cut corn acreage.
Corn acreage is set to fall by 0.7 percent each year in the
five years to 2020 to reach 500 million mu (33.3 million
For its part, Jilin will reduce corn acreage by 300,000
hectares in 2017, according to its 2017 work report.
"Jilin farmers have been growing corn for several
generations. If you don't allow them to grow corn, what else can
they grow?" asked Liu Ye, a member of China's largely ceremonial
parliamentary advisory body. He is also president of a major
agriculture company in Jilin.
($1 = 6.9078 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Hallie Gu, Sue-Lin Wong and Dominique Patton;
Editing by Josephine Mason and Dale Hudson)