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China Checking Its Bins

China will investigate its huge grain stocks to see if they match reported levels, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

All grain silos and stocks written on books will be verified to provide a “clear and true book” for government bodies responsible for managing reserves and production, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as telling a national conference.

China kept its grain stock number as a state secret until last year when Premier Wen Jiabao said the country’s stockpile stood at between 150 million and 200 million tonnes.

But some grain experts and local media have cast doubt on the number, saying many local warehouses falsify book numbers and keep stocks lower than stated or empty.

Last year, Premier Wen Jiabao climbed a ladder at a state grain warehouse to show his concern over theft and false reporting of state reserves.

“Every warehouse must be checked. Every inventory book must be examined to ensure numbers of grain stocks are true and grain quality are good to provide a reliable basis for the government in decision-making,” Xinhua quoted Li as saying.

“Only when we know the exact amount of our grain stock, can we make wise decisions in purchasing and stocking grain, and managing the grain stock to cope with the need of development and reform.”

China has repeatedly said it has enough grain reserves for its 1.3 billion people to remain self-sufficient, but lower grain prices had led many farmers to abandon farming while years of reform of its grain reserve system have left warehouses used for other purposes.

Despite five years of bumper harvests, China’s consumption for livestock feed and processed foods has risen much faster than its grain production.

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