China is investing heavily in biotechnology, hoping to feed its growing population in the coming decades.
Diversion of food crops to biofuels has finally caught the attention of policy makers in China.
Even as the country seeks to use 10 million tons of bio- ethanol and 2 million tons of bio-diesel annually by 2020 to cut its reliance on petroleum, planners are also aware that they have 1.3 billion mouths to feed.
So the new strategy, unveiled in a July plan issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and re-iterated this week by Chen Deming, a vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission in Beijing, is for most of the biofuel to come from non-grain sources, such as sweet sorghum, sugarcane and cassava.
Officially, China has four factories making 1 million tons of ethanol a year, mostly from corn. In reality, there are hundreds of small, unregulated units converting grain into fuel, in the process making it costlier for farmers to feed pigs.
Pork prices have soared this year, causing Chinese inflation to accelerate to its quickest pace in a decade in July. Consumer prices probably rose at a faster pace in August than the 5.6 percent rate recorded in July, says Bi Jingquan, Chen’s colleague at the top planning agency.