(Updating to add more comment throughout)
By Hallie Gu and Sue-Lin Wong
BEIJING, March 9 China's major corn producing
regions are urging Beijing to give more financial aid to farmers
and accelerate efforts to boost demand for grain as farmers
struggle with low prices and nascent steps to get rid of its
ageing, bulging stockpiles stumble.
Pleas for help from Jilin and Heilongjiang, two top corn
growing provinces, come as farmer's profits dwindle even after
the central government doled out 39 billion yuan ($5.7 billion)
in subsidies last year to growers in the northeast corn belt.
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," Guo Naishuo, a delegate from
Jilin to the National People's Congress, China's parliament,
said on Wednesday.
Farmers in the northeast now make about 300 yuan
($43.36)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
The region'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 for 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 last year 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
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 have not led to a big
jump in consumption of the crop, experts said.
Mei Zhangji, delegate from Heilongjiang, called on the
government to boost the use of corn-based ethanol nationwide and
lift restrictions on private companies entering the country's
fledging biofuel market, which is dominated by state-owned
"We are going through a transition period. Please help us go
though this difficult period," he said on Thursday.
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
hectares), China's State Council said in October.
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 = 6.9184 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Hallie Gu, Sue-Lin Wong and Dominique Patton;
Editing by Josephine Mason and Dale Hudson)