Speakers:

Liu Huanxin, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs

Wu Hongyao, member of the Leading Party Members' Group of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

Wei Baigang, chief economist of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

Chairperson:

Shou Xiaoli, spokesperson for the State Council Information Office

Date:

Oct. 27, 2020

Shou Xiaoli:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to the State Council Information Office (SCIO) press conference. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), major progress has been made in the development of agriculture and rural areas. All the related tasks and targets set out in the plan have been accomplished. Today, we are pleased to be joined by Mr. Liu Huanxin, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs; Mr. Wu Hongyao, member of the Leading Party Members' Group of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs; and Mr. Wei Baigang, chief economist of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. They will brief you on the achievements made in the development of agriculture and rural areas during the 13th Five-Year Plan period and answer your questions.

First of all, I invite Mr. Liu to make an opening statement.

Liu Huanxin:

Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media, good morning. I'm very delighted to meet you here. I would like to thank you for your long-term concern and support for the work related to agriculture, rural areas, and farmers.

This year is the final year for the completion of the 13th Five-Year Plan. Departments of agriculture and rural affairs at all levels have been fully implementing the guiding principles of General Secretary Xi Jinping's important instructions, putting into practice the decisions and plans of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council, and focusing on ensuring stability on the six fronts and security in the six areas. We've effectively responded to risks and challenges, including the COVID-19 epidemic, severe flooding, and serious crop diseases and pests . The development of agriculture and rural areas has maintained a stable and strong momentum. Grain output is expected to reach a new record. The recovery of hog production is better than expected. There are adequate supplies of non-grain food and the gap between urban and rural incomes has narrowed.

During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has placed addressing issues relating to agriculture, rural areas, and the wellbeing of farmers at the top of the work agenda of the CPC, given priority to agriculture and rural areas, and mapped out the important strategy for rural revitalization. Historic achievements and changes have been made in agriculture and rural areas. Related tasks and targets set in the 13th Five-Year Plan have been accomplished. All this has offered strong support for winning the battle of poverty elimination and completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects as scheduled. It has also helped seize the strategic initiative in maintaining overall stability in economic and social development, as well as tackling risks and challenges at home and abroad.

First, we have greater control over the food supply for 1.4 billion Chinese people. We have continued to increase food crop production based on farmland management and the application of technology. We have completed the task of developing 53.36 million hectares of high-standard cropland that produces good yields in times of drought or excessive rain. We have established 72.53 million hectares of functional zones for grain production and protected areas for the production of major agricultural products. Grain output has exceeded 650 billion kilograms for six consecutive years, bringing the production capacity to new heights. The self-sufficiency ratio of rice and wheat has been maintained above 100%, and that of corn above 95%. There are diverse and adequate supplies of meat, eggs, milk, fruit, vegetables, and tea, meeting the increasing consumption demands of the people.

Second, agricultural modernization has reached a new level. The contribution of advances in agricultural science and technology to agricultural production has exceeded 60%. The overall level of mechanization in plowing, sowing, and harvesting exceeded 70%. All farmland used for planting major crops nationwide has been sown with superior strains of crop. There are now more than 1 million family farms, 2.23 million farmers' cooperatives, and 893,000 commercial organizations that provide agricultural services. These organizations have become the mainstay of modern agriculture, better aligning smallholder farming and the development of modern agriculture. The use of fertilizer and pesticides has registered negative growth for the three years in a row. The acceptance rate of agricultural products under quality monitoring has been maintained above 97%. Putting quality first and adhering to green development have become dominant themes in modern agriculture.

Third, the target of doubling farmers' income has been achieved ahead of schedule. In 2019, the per capita disposable income of rural residents exceeded 16,000 yuan, doubling 2010's figure one year ahead of schedule, and marking a growth rate faster than that of urban residents for the 10th year in a row. The gap between urban and rural incomes has also narrowed, falling from 2.73:1 in 2015 to 2.64:1 in 2019. In the first three quarters of this year, the per capita disposable income of rural residents grew by 1.6% in real terms to 12,297 yuan. The growth rate will continue to rise in the fourth quarter. In the year for completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, farmers will have a stronger sense of gain and happiness.

Fourth, decisive achievements have been made in the fight against poverty. By the end of this year, all of China's poor as defined by the current standards will be lifted out of poverty, all 832 impoverished counties will be removed from the poverty list, and the overall regional poverty problem will be resolved. The poverty alleviation policies with an aim of supporting local industries cover 98% of poverty-stricken households. In poverty-stricken areas, more than 1 million poverty alleviation projects that support local industries have been implemented and more than 300,000 poverty alleviation industrial bases have been built. Each poverty-stricken county has formed a leading industry with distinctive characteristics and the capacity to erase poverty. Poverty alleviation through supporting local industries has become the measure with the widest coverage, mobilizing the largest number of people and having the most effective results.

Fifth, rural revitalization has achieved a good start. The rural revitalization strategic plan was issued and implemented, the CPC's rural work regulations were promulgated and implemented, and the rural revitalization institutional framework has mostly taken shape. The penetration rate of rural sanitary toilets has exceeded 65%, while the coverage rate of the collection, transportation, and disposal system for domestic waste in administrative villages has exceeded 90%. Meanwhile, the three-year action objectives and tasks for the improvement of rural human settlements have been largely completed. Additionally, the construction of infrastructure such as rural water, electricity, road and communications facilities has been accelerated, the level of public services such as education, medical care, and elderly care has been continuously improved, the rural governance system has been further improved, and the rural areas are now taking on a new look.

Sixth, rural reforms continue to deepen. The basic rural management system has been further consolidated and improved and more than 200 million rural households have received certificates of land contract management rights. After the second round of land contracts expired, a new land contract policy which allows the validity period be extended for another 30 years upon expiration was promulgated. Elsewhere, significant progress was made in the "three-rights separation" system for separating ownership rights, contract rights, and management rights for contracted rural land. A new round of rural homestead reform pilot projects was also launched. The asset and capital verification of rural collective assets have for the most part been completed and the identities of more than 600 million collective members has been confirmed. The supporting and protection system and institutions for agriculture have been gradually improved and an ecological-oriented agricultural subsidy system has been established. Policy to adjust and improve the use of land transfer income with a priority to supporting rural revitalization has been issued. The main framework of rural reform is now basically in place.

These achievements are the result of the overall arrangement and strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, the result of hard work and unremitting efforts by hundreds of millions of farmers and officials, and the result of continuous improvement and persistent reinforcement of policies to strengthen agriculture, benefit farmers, and raise rural living standards.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period, we will firmly establish a new development concept, implement demands for high-quality development and new development patterns, adhere to the general guideline of prioritizing agricultural and rural development via the implementation of the rural revitalization strategy. We shall also steadily improve the security level of important agricultural products such as grain, strive to improve the quality, efficiency, and competitiveness of agriculture, focus on strengthening the construction of beautiful and livable villages, consolidate and improve the results of poverty alleviation, continue to deepen rural reforms, and improve the rural governance system to accelerate the modernization of agriculture and rural areas.

Next, my colleagues and I will answer your questions.

Shou Xiaoli:

Thank you, Mr. Liu Huanxin. Now let's begin the question and answer session. Please state the news outlet you represent first.

CCTV:

During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, in order to adapt to the people's need from eating to allay their hunger to eating for nutrition, the focus of agricultural development has been shifted from a quantity-oriented to quality-oriented approach. I want to know, after five years of hard work, what measures have been taken to maintain the security of important agricultural products such as grain? What are your next considerations? Thank you.

Liu Huanxin:

This question is a very good one, and it is also an issue of great concern to all sectors of society and the general public. As you said, people's living standards have improved and consumption is changing from eating to allay their hunger to eating for nutrition and health. To effectively meet the upgraded consumption needs of the common people, agricultural and rural departments at all levels continue to deepen the supply-side structural reforms of the agriculture, vigorously promote measures to revitalize agriculture through high-quality and green development, and to strengthen agriculture by building brands. The supply levels of important agricultural products such as grain has increased significantly. Next, I will summarize it in three aspects:

First, adequate supply. Food supply has always been our top priority in the last five years. We have vigorously implemented strategies to ensure the supply of important agricultural products, and the supply of grain and important non-staple food has been adequate. Grain production has further increased and stabilized at above 1.3 trillion jin (650 billion kilograms) annually, guaranteeing each citizen 470 kilograms of grain on a yearly basis. This is much higher than the internationally recognized food safety line of 400 kilograms. We have worked to ensure food supply for 1.4 billion Chinese people through our own efforts. The production capacity for cotton, edible oil and sugar also improved. We also saw good harvests for products included in the "vegetable basket" (non-grain food supply). In 2019, China produced 77.59 million tons of meat, 33.09 million tons of eggs, 32.01 million tons of milk, 274 million tons of fruit, 721 million tons of vegetables, and 64.8 million tons of aquatic products. And the overall output of these products is expected to steadily increase this year. I would say that the "rice bag" (grain supply) and "vegetable basket" (non-staple food supply) are both diversifying. As long as there is demand, there is supply.

Second, better structures. Led by market demands, we have improved the agricultural structure in the last five years. The supply of green and quality agricultural products has increased significantly. The structure of crop planting has continued to improve. In the past, wheat was mainly used to make steamed buns and noodles, but now 35.8% of the wheat planted is high- and low-gluten wheat used to make bread, cakes and pastries. The planting area of quality rice has further expanded; the soybean planting area has increased annually for five consecutive years; the cultivated land change from growing grain crops to cultivating feed crops has exceeded 15 million mu (1 million hectares), and a production mix of food, cash, and fodder crops has initially taken shape. Animal husbandry is also upgrading at a faster pace. The proportion of large-scale hog breeding has reached 53% of all hog breeding. Beef and mutton production also increased rapidly. More and more consumers are now choosing domestically produced milk powder, meeting the need for a consumption structure upgrade.

Third, improved quality. We have attached greater importance to quality and safety in the last five years. To ensure quality production and supervision, we have set up a production standard system for edible agricultural products and fully implemented the system for granting certificates of quality. Quality and safety monitoring show that over 97% of agricultural products are up to standard. We now have more robust measures in place to ensure food safety. More than 49,200 agricultural cases have been granted certificates for green, organic or GI (Geographical Indication) products. More and more green and quality agricultural products are now available in the supermarkets and on dining tables.

Next, to better meet people's growing expectations for a better life, we will implement strategies to ensure the supply of important agricultural products, continue to deepen the supply-side structural reform in agriculture and implement a regional production and supply plan for important agricultural products. In addition, we will continue to stabilize grain production, increase the supply of products included in the "vegetable basket," improve the structure of agricultural products, and enhance their quality, efficiency and competitiveness. Thank you.

The Poster News APP:

What measures have the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs taken to accelerate the integration of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries in rural areas during the 13th Five-Year Plan period? How effective are the measures? Thank you.

Liu Huanxin:

The integration of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries is a crucial issue in agricultural and rural development. I will first invite Mr. Wei to answer the question.

Wei Baigang:

Thank you for your question. In 2015, the State Council's General Office released the Guidelines on Advancing the Integration of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Industries in Rural Areas. In the past few years, all departments in all locales have earnestly put in place the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on accelerating industrial development in rural areas. Based on agricultural resources and other resources of the rural areas, we have accelerated the development of industries that can increase farmers' incomes; speed up the integration of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries; and made great efforts to keep more jobs in the rural areas and to give more added value of the secondary and tertiary industries to farmers. I'd like to summarize the measures and their results in the following aspects.

First, we have vigorously developed the agricultural product processing industry. In 2019, China was home to 1,600 agricultural products processing parks and 81,000 processing enterprises above designated size. The industry reported revenue of more than 22 trillion yuan and created over 30 million jobs.

Second, we have vigorously developed industries with rural characteristics. A number of characteristic industrial towns with an output value of over one billion yuan have been built as well as characteristic industrial villages with an output value of over 100 million yuan. A number of rural craft technologies have been discovered.

Third, we have accelerated the development of rural leisure tours. We have built a number of high-quality leisure scenic spots and promoted a variety of key leisure and tourist itineraries. In recent years, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has promoted a total of 1,000 high-quality rural itineraries for tourists, making them popular among urban residents wishing to travel to the countryside during the National Day holiday. In 2019, rural recreational tourism received 3.2 billion tourists with its revenue exceeding 850 billion yuan.

Fourth, we have boosted the growth of new rural services. In 2019, the output value of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, the fishery industry and supporting activities reached 650 billion yuan. There were more than 30,000 agriculture-related e-commerce businesses. Rural online sales reached 1.7 trillion yuan, including 400 billion yuan from online sales of agricultural products.

With the strong support of favorable policies, we have speeded up the building of platforms for rural industry development. A total of 151 modern national agricultural parks have been set up nationwide. This has encouraged local authorities of provinces, cities and counties to develop more than 3,000 modern agricultural parks and over 1,000 agricultural associations, as well as more than 800 towns with a prosperous agricultural industry. The rapid growth of rural industry and the accelerated integration of primary, secondary and tertiary sectors now provide important support in increasing employment and incomes for farmers and a significant growth pole for rural economic development.

Next, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs will continue to pursue supply-side structural reform of agriculture. Our main tasks are to keep striving to build platforms for the integrated development of primary, secondary and tertiary sectors in rural areas, focus on key industries, attract resources, boost innovation and leadership, extend the industrial chain, and upgrade the value chain so as to accelerate the formation of rural development pattern in which farmers, enterprises and society all participate. Thank you.

Farmers' Daily:

The public is concerned about progress in toilet renovation and the disposal of wastewater and garbage. What progress has been made in the Three-Year Action Plan for Improving the Rural Living Environment? And what achievements have been made? Thank you.

Liu Huanxin:

Let's give the floor to Mr. Wu Hongyao, a member of the CPC Leading Group of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, to take that question.

Wu Hongyao:

Thank you. Let me answer the question. Both the CPC Central Committee and the public have attached great importance to improving the rural living environment. At the beginning of 2018, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council issued the Three-Year Action Plan for Improving Rural Living Environment. The Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, in collaboration with relevant authorities, have actively played a leading role in making solid progress in implementing the Three-Year Action Plan by learning from Zhejiang's experience in village renovations in accordance with the policies and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Renovation work is now underway nationwide, with major progress being made. The goals and tasks set in the plan have mostly been completed.

First, most villages have become clean and tidy. At the end of 2018, 18 departments, including the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, launched a village cleaning campaign. A series of activities were organized to encourage farmers to take spontaneous action in cleaning up rural household garbage, village ponds and ditches, as well as agricultural waste such as manure from livestock and poultry breeding. Farmers were further encouraged to change bad habits that adversely affect the rural living environment. Strict and coordinated measures have been taken against the problem of dirtiness and untidiness in villages. More than 95% of villages have taken part in cleaning-up activities, and the appearance of these villages has been significantly improved.

Second, we have made solid progress in the rural toilet revolution. We have always tailored our measures to local conditions when implementing policies and have given priority to quality. We have guided local authorities to prioritize the promotion of toilet renovation in Class-I counties, while steadily promoting the work in Class-II counties and launching trials of the work in Class-III counties by issuing policy documents, holding deployment meetings, enhancing technical support, carrying out supervision and inspection, and promoting publicity and training. We urged the local authorities to improve the quality and effectiveness of rural toilet innovation and ensured that the public is satisfied with the work. Currently, more than 65% of rural areas are equipped with sanitary toilets. Since 2018, more than 30 million rural toilets have been renovated.

Third, we have made coordinated efforts in promoting the treatment of rural household garbage and sewage. We have actively cooperated with relevant departments to strengthen rural household garbage and sewage treatment and improve the construction, management and protection mechanisms. At present, the system of rural household garbage collection, transportation and disposal has covered more than 90% of the country's administrative villages. A total of 99% of the 24,000 unqualified garbage sites identified nationwide have been cleaned up, and the rural sewage treatment has been improved.

Next, we will improve the rural living environment as required in the 14th Five-Year Plan on the basis of summarizing the effects of implementing the Three-Year Action Plan. We will continue to improve the rural living environment in order to give farmers a greater sense of gain and happiness. Thank you.

The Cover:

Corn prices have been rising rapidly since the beginning of this year. We have noted that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs explained that one of the reasons for the high price is the strong demand and reluctance of farmers to sell. What measures are the ministry taking to deal with this issue? Thank you.

Wei Baigang:

Thank you for your interest. As you said, the price of corn has risen recently and people have been paying close attention to the corn market. We responded to this issue at the press conference held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs several days ago.

Since the beginning of this year, the price of corn did go up. In September, with new corn from the north and northeast of China coming into the market, prices began to fall. After the National Day holiday, the price then rose again. As far as we know, the listed purchase price of corn in some parts of Jilin province is around 2.34 yuan per kilogram, and that of some regions in Heilongjiang province is around 2.2 yuan per kilogram. According to our analysis, there are three reasons for this price rise.

First, demand is strong. As the production of pigs is recovering and speeding up, the demand for corn for feed has increased. At the same time, the demand for alcohol and related products, including corn starch, is also increasing. The price has increased because processing enterprises and traders are generally optimistic about the corn market.

Second, costs have increased and farmers are reluctant to sell. This year, the impact of typhoons on the corn yield in northeast China has been limited, but corn stalk lodging occurred in some areas, resulting in higher costs for harvesting. Our research shows that the cost of harvesting lodged corn by machine is around 100 yuan higher per mu than during normal years. Farmers say that each extra ear of corn can earn them 40-50 cents more. After harvesting, they have tended to wait a few days when having seen that prices were rising.

Third, capital speculation. Affected by the global pandemic, domestic and foreign investment markets have shown greater interest in the grain market. Since October, international and domestic corn futures prices have risen significantly, and traders and processing enterprises are expected to increase bullish expectations, leading to a rise in spot prices. Corn prices are set to stabilize in the near future.

We believe that this round of corn price hike is a restorative rise following on from the reform of the collection and storage system, which is mainly the result of market effects. In the future, the decisive role of the market in the allocation of resources will still be brought into play. We will also work with relevant departments to ensure the corn supply and endeavor to increase grain production and supply. At present, the corn harvest is 90% complete, and a bumper harvest is in sight. The next step is to guide all regions in harvesting and drying work, so as to ensure that the harvest of autumn grains is plentiful and can be sold as soon as possible. Relevant departments will strengthen their supervision of corn warehouse auctions in the early stage, and urge buyers and sellers to timely get goods available on the market as soon as possible. At present, stocks of rice and wheat are sufficient, while some can be auctioned for feed. In short, the corn supply will gradually increase in the later period, and there is no support for corn prices to continue rising. Thank you.

Economic Daily:

In 2018, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the "Strategic Plan for Rural Revitalization," which clarified the overall objectives and priorities involved in rural revitalization. How has the implementation of the strategy progressed? Thank you.

Liu Huanxin:

The implementation of the rural revitalization strategy was an important strategic decision made by the 19th CPC National Congress. The strategy is off to a good start following several years of hard work. Mr. Wei Baigang, chief economist, will answer this question.

Wei Baigang:

Thank you for your interest. The 19th CPC National Congress made a major decision and deployment to implement the rural revitalization strategy, and clearly proposed the general requirements of industrial prosperity, ecological livability, rural civilization, effective governance and rich life. General Secretary Xi Jinping has paid close attention to the promotion of rural revitalization, and made a series of important instructions promoting rural industrial revitalization, talent revitalization, cultural revitalization, ecological revitalization and organizational revitalization. At present, seven aspects and 59 key tasks of the strategic plan are progressing smoothly, and 82 major projects, actions and plans are advancing in an orderly manner. Various regions have carried out demonstration and leading work in rural revitalization, and explored and set a number of good examples such as in improving the living environment, promoting industrial parks, building beautiful villages, and constructing rural civilization. The rural revitalization work gets off to a good start.

First, a mechanism with "Party secretaries at five levels" (provincial Party committees, municipal Party committees, county-level Party committees, township-level Party committees and village-level Party committees) responsible for the work of rural revitalization has been established nationwide. The CPC Central Committee has issued a set of regulations for the country's rural work, specifying the major responsibilities of these five levels of Party secretaries in implementing the strategy for rural revitalization. Leading agencies for the implementation of the strategy have been established in 31 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities), with provincial Party secretaries and governors serving as heads of the leading groups in most regions. A sound evaluation system has also been established in order to better evaluate and supervise performances in carrying out the strategy.

Second, in carrying out the strategy for rural revitalization, we have been following the procedure of "planning followed by implementation" by local governments at different levels. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council have issued a national rural revitalization strategic program, setting out the goals and tasks that shall be completed by 2020. 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have also made their own plans so as to align their work with the national program and strictly implement every single task stipulated in the program. Township and village governments have been increasing efforts to formulate their own implementation plans, and some villages have combined separate plans into a single program where conditions allow, thereby making the work more feasible. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has cooperated with some eastern coastal provinces with advanced economies — including Zhejiang, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shandong - in order to help the eastern coastal areas and other regions where conditions allow achieve basic modernization of agriculture and rural areas. For poverty-stricken areas in central and western China, eliminating poverty is their top priority in implementing the strategy for rural revitalization, and they will win the battle against poverty soon.

Third, the policy framework for rural revitalization has been established. The CPC Central Committee has issued a series of major documents to enhance the rural living environment, revitalize rural industries, strengthen rural governance, improve social etiquette and civility in rural areas, and has created the Chinese farmers' harvest festival. Relevant departments have instituted policies to boost financial services, attract talented personnel, and improve technological services, road building as well as education, amenities, and healthcare services in rural areas. We have also stepped up efforts to establish a mechanism to plan, construct, manage and protect infrastructure in urban and rural areas in a coordinated manner. Moreover, we have been ramping up efforts to ensure that basic public services in urban and rural areas will be provided in accordance with unified standards and systems.

Fourth, a series of landmark projects have been launched. Following the principles of focusing on priorities, addressing inadequacies and shoring up points of weakness, we have launched a set of major projects. These include renovating the rural living environment, constructing high-standard farmland, innovating agricultural technology, creating national-level modern agricultural industrial parks, protecting black-soil farmland in northeast China, and building cold chain logistics facilities for the storage and preservation of agricultural products. These projects have further strengthened the material foundation for the development of agriculture and rural areas.

Going forward, we will follow the deployments and requirements made by the CPC Central Committee, focus on the goals of rural revitalization, and work hard to achieve a good performance in all areas, so as to ensure that decisive progress is made by 2035, with the basic modernization of agriculture and rural areas. By 2050, rural areas should have strong agriculture, a beautiful countryside and well-off farmers. Thank you.

Hong Kong Commercial Daily:

Technology and equipment are necessary when it comes to the development of modern agriculture. Could you please introduce the progress China has made in the construction of agricultural infrastructure during the 13th Five-Year Plan period? What will the priorities be in the future? Thank you.

Liu Huanxin:

Advanced equipment serves as an essential support in the development of modern agriculture. Improving investment in agricultural infrastructure has always been a priority as stated in "the No. 1 central document" during the 13th Five-Year Plan period. A large number of major projects have been constructed, thereby significantly increasing fixed asset investment in the primary industry. Fixed asset investment in the primary industry between 2016 and September 2020 hit 8.64 trillion yuan, around 1.66 times the level during the 12th Five-Year Plan period. Since 2020, we have been working hard to push local governments to issue special bonds for the development of agriculture and rural areas, so as to overcome the effects of COVID-19 on agricultural and rural investment. A total of 120.2 billion yuan in local government special bonds was issued between January and September, thereby significantly expanding channels for investment and financing. The agricultural infrastructure has witnessed remarkable improvements since the beginning of the 13th Five-Year Plan period. Moreover, technology and equipment have advanced rapidly. The progress can be seen in four aspects:

First, we have significantly scaled up the development of high-standard farmland. By the end of the 13th Five-Year Plan period, we will have completed the construction of 800 million mu (53.3 million hectares) high-standard farmland capable of producing stable, high yields despite drought or flood conditions, and enhanced the disaster resilience and disaster-risk reduction capabilities in agriculture. Grain output will have increased by around 100 kilograms per mu. We have launched a campaign to protect and enhance the soil fertility of cultivated land, and increased efforts to better utilize and conserve black soil in northeast China. We took various measures to combat arable land degradation. In 2019, the average grade of cultivated land across China reached 4.76, up 0.35 from 2014. We also accelerated the construction of efficient water-saving irrigation facilities in rural areas, and the effective utilization coefficient of farmland irrigation water now stands at 0.559.

Second, we have improved our capabilities for breeding superior crop varieties. We established a seed cultivation system featuring three national seed cultivation and production centers in Hainan, Gansu and Sichuan provinces, as well as 52 national seed-producing counties and 100 regional seed cultivation bases. The National Crop Genebank of China (NCGC) is expected to store 1.5 million seed accessions when completed, which will rank the first in the world in terms of conservation abilities. China's modern seed industry has made important breakthroughs, with major crops upgraded and 95% of farmland area planted with domestically cultivated seeds.

Third, the mechanization of agriculture has been developed in an all-round way. The level of mechanization has been rapidly upgraded and the total power of agricultural machinery reached 1.028 billion kilowatts. A total of 453 counties have been built as pilot areas for whole-process mechanization of major crop production. The mechanization of agriculture in hilly and mountainous areas has been accelerated. The overall level of mechanization in plowing, sowing and harvesting exceeded 70%, while the mechanization rate for livestock breeding and aquaculture reached 34% and 30%, respectively. Agricultural mechanization now also covers more areas, including plant protection, straw processing and drying.

Fourth, we have boosted upgrade facilities for livestock and aquatic farming. The construction of livestock housing, automatic feeding, and disease prevention and control facilities has been accelerated. As much as 64.5% of livestock and poultry farming is now carried out on a large scale, and 93% of farms are equipped with manure disposal systems. We have made greater efforts to stimulate the development of the dairy industry. We have supported the upgrade of facilities for dairy farming and built a number of high-quality forage bases. A total of 64% of dairy farming is now carried out on a large scale. We have also promoted the transformation and upgrading of the fishing industry. More than 5,400 national demonstration farms for healthy aquaculture have been established.

We are currently compiling the 14th Five-Year Plan for agricultural and rural development. We plan to conduct a series of major projects to support the sustainable and strategic development of agriculture, mainly focusing on high-standard farmland, the modern seed industry, cold chain storage and logistics, digital agriculture and rural areas, prevention and control of animal and plant diseases, major scientific infrastructure, as well as other forms of infrastructure. We will increase efforts to improve the level of modern agricultural facilities and equipment. Thank you.

CNR:

Many leading pig producers in China have predicted that the price of pork will not return to normal until the second half of 2021. What's your take on that? Thank you.

Liu Huanxin:

This is a question that is close to our daily lives and people's livelihoods. In recent years, people have paid close attention to this. I would like to invite Mr. Wei to answer this question.

Wei Baigang:

Thank you for your question. I have spoken about pig production resumption and pork prices several times. The change in prices is dependent on supply and demand. Since the beginning of this year, local governments have fully implemented the polices made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council to support the production of hogs. We support pig farms to boost production and increase efforts to prevent and control the African swine fever. In the first three quarters of this year, 12,500 new large-scale pig farms were built and put into production, and 13,400 empty pig farms re-stocked. By the end of September, pig stocks have reached 370 million, or 84% of the level at the end of 2017, while there were 38.22 million breeding sows, or 86% of the level of end-2017.

As hog production has resumed, more hogs have been slaughtered for market. As a result, pork prices have declined for eight consecutive weeks. At present, the price of pork in wholesale markets is 49.23 yuan per kilogram, a decrease of 10.41 yuan compared to its high in February. The downward trend is obvious.

Looking to the future, the supply of pork is improving. According to recent expert research, when taking factors such as the resumption of hog production, pork imports and consumption demand into consideration, the supply of pork during the two future major holidays of the New Year's Day and Spring Festival will increase by around 30%. Generally, the price will be lower than the same period last year, and there will be no significant rise in prices. As the number of breeding sows and pig stocks increase, the supply will also quickly follow. When the supply goes up, prices will gradually return to normal. Thank you.

People's Daily:

We felt in our interviews, farmers pay high attention to and very much expect to see rural reforms. What progress and achievements have been made in this regard during the 13th Five-Year Plan period? What measures will be taken in the next stage? Thank you.

Liu Huanxin:

Rural reforms are the driving force of rural development. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the reforms. Through joint efforts across the entire country, the reforms have continuously deepened in recent years and significant progress has been made. Let's invite Mr. Wu from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to answer your questions.

Wu Hongyao:

Since the beginning of the 13th Five-Year Plan period, the Agricultural Office of the CPC Central Committee, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and other relevant government departments have deepened rural reforms in an all-round way in accordance with the arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, making remarkable progress and scoring many achievements. They can be summarized as "a batch in three aspects." First, we introduced a batch of reform plans with top-level design. Second, we carried out a batch of pilot reforms that made in-depth breakthroughs. Third, we established a batch of mature legal systems. Through the reforms, we preliminarily set up pillars and provided institutional and policy support for implementing the rural vitalization strategy. Achievements were demonstrated in six ways.

First, significant progress was made in reforming the rural land system. The verification, registration and certification of land contracts and management rights was successfully completed. A system of separating rights between ownership, contracts, and management was preliminarily established. The Law on Rural Land Contracting was revised. The CPC Central Committee also announced the extension of the second round of rural land contracts by another 30 years, giving farmers assurances in ownership over the long run. The pilot plan for reforming the rural homestead system was also published, marking the launch of a new round of pilot reforms. At the same time, the marketization of rural collective land designated for commercial construction and reforms in rural collective land requisition were in steady progress.

Second, steady steps were made in reforming the rural collective property rights system. The check and verification of rural collective assets were completed smoothly. A total of 6.5 trillion yuan of rural collective assets and 6.55 billion mu of land resources were checked and verified nationwide. A total of 438,000 villages completed reforms that saw productive assets converted into shares and over 600 million members of collective economic organizations were confirmed.

Third, the construction of new agricultural operational systems was accelerated. We implemented programs to cultivate family farms and upgrade farmers' cooperatives. Now there are over one million family farms and over 2.2 million farmers' cooperatives in China. We also supported producer services in agriculture and expanded the number of organizations providing services for agricultural production to 440,000. The commercial and specialized services in agriculture brought small rural households into line with modern agriculture methods and explored a path of agricultural modernization with Chinese characteristics.

Fourth, the system of supporting and protecting agriculture was further improved. We implemented the national food security strategy, adhered to the principle of increasing food crop production based on farmland management and the application of technology, and put into place the strictest system of arable land protection. We designated 1.55 billion mu for permanent basic cropland and 1.088 billion mu for functional grain production and designated protected zones for the production of major agricultural products. We also improved price-setting mechanisms for agricultural products as well as the system for their purchase and storage and established a system for subsidizing agricultural production, all of which achieved positive results.

Fifth, notable achievements were made in developing the rural governance system. A rural governance system under the leadership and organization of the CPC was established preliminarily, integrating self-governance, rule of law, and rule of virtue. The role of community-level Party organizations in leading Party members to devote themselves to reform and the vanguard as well as exemplary role of Party members were brought into full play. We also saw increasingly standardized villagers' self-governance organizations, further highlighted the rule of law in rural construction, and promoted a basically sound mechanism for governing rural customs.

Sixth, solid moves were made to integrate urban and rural development. We made steps to offer urban and rural areas equal access to basic public services as well as set up universal basic aged-care pension, basic medical insurance, and serious illness insurance systems for both urban and rural residents. A total of 95 percent of China's counties passed the assessment for balanced development in compulsory education. Major progress was also made in reassigning rural populations permanent urban resident status. Public employment and entrepreneurship servicing both urban and rural areas equally were also improved significantly.

Next, in accordance with the decisions and arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we will pay more attention to improving agriculture policies in rural areas and for farmers, continue to handle relationships between farmers and landowners, and launch major reforms to improve the rural property rights system and the mechanism for market-based allocation of production factors. In doing so, we aim to promote the free flow and equal exchange of urban and rural production factors, fully stimulate the internal driving forces of rural development, and offer stronger institutional support to the all-round vitalization of rural areas. Thank you.

Shou Xiaoli:

Thank you, Mr. Liu, and thanks to all the other speakers and media friends. That's all for today's press conference.

Translated and edited by Zhang Liying, Yuan Fang, Zhang Rui, Li Huiru, Wang Yanfang, Xiang Bin, He Shan, Gong Yingchun, Cui Can, Zhang Junmian, Zhang Jiaqi, Zhou Jing, Wang Qian, Duan Yaying, David Ball, Laura Zheng, and Tom Arnstein. In case of any discrepancy between the English and Chinese texts, the Chinese version is deemed to prevail.