China’s Xi Says Nation Needs to Put an End to Soaring Food Waste

(Bloomberg) — China’s President Xi Jinping urged his country to take immediate measures to stop food waste from growing, especially at a time when the nation’s grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chinese leader said the issue of food waste is “shocking and distressing,” and highlighted the importance of maintaining food security as the virus spurs concerns over tightening supplies and surging prices, Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday. Xi said he will strengthen legislation, supervision and long-term mechanisms as part of a campaign to tackle the problem.

While the nation has enjoyed years of bumper harvests, the hardship that goes into producing grain should never be in vain, Xi said. “The call comes as the country experiences a hike in grain prices,” said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst with Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. “There are concerns over supply.”

China’s food prices climbed about 10% in July from a year earlier, while pork surged 86%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Surging prices prompted the top consumer to buy a record volume of meat last month, and China boosted wheat imports to a seven-year high in June. Agriculture Minister Han Changfu has said the country should always be self-sufficient in rice and wheat, and other cereals, and keep an “appropriate volume” of imports.

Xi’s comments come before a review of China’s phase-one trade deal with the U.S. in the middle of this month. The Asian nation has been boosting purchases of soybeans, corn, cotton and pork from America to cool prices and as part of its commitments under the deal. Still, China’s purchases of American farm products in the first half were only about 20% of the 2020 target.

In 2013, China launched an “empty your plates” campaign to stop food waste from increasing, and the grains waste at that time was estimated at 35 million tons a year, according to an government official.

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