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Official sees threat to PRC food supplies

A vendor waits for customers at a pork stall in Kunming, Yunnan province, on Tuesday. The cost of pork jumped 56 percent in China in 2007.

A vendor waits for customers at a pork stall in Kunming, Yunnan province, on Tuesday. The cost of pork jumped 56 percent in China in 2007.

Illegal land grabs are threatening food supplies in China as scarce farming land is destroyed to make way for industrial and urban development, a minister was quoted as saying yesterday.
"The illegal acquisition of arable land (for purposes other than agriculture) has endangered food safety and social stability," Land and Resources Minister Xu Shaoshi said, according to the China Daily.
"(But) given the growing population and fast industrialization and urbanization, illegal land acquisition will probably continue."
Land grabs have been a well-known and much-hated phenomenon in China for many years, with corrupt local government officials and businessmen forcing farmers off their land for little or no compensation.
The land is generally used to build factories or residential developments, allowing the officials and businessmen to make huge profits.
There were 130,000 cases of illegal land grabs last year, an increase of 17.3 percent from 2005, according to previously released official figures.
The central government has previously acknowledged the social discontent caused by illegal land grabs, although Xu's comments placed a greater emphasis on the potentially dire consequences for food security.
China's officials have also become increasingly concerned this year with rising food prices, which jumped 18.2 percent in November from 12 months earlier.
The cost of pork - a staple of most Chinese diets - was a staggering 56-percent higher.
In his comments to a conference in Beijing on Tuesday, Xu indicated there was a danger that the amount of arable land in China may fall below the government's minimum target of 120 million hectares.
The amount of farming land had already fallen to just 121.8 million hectares, he said.
Industrial waste, expanding deserts and salinisation were other factors contributing to the declining amount of farming land, according to Xu.