BEIJING, CHINA — China is bolstering efforts to increase soybean and edible oils output to boost grain self-sufficiency, encouraging more land to be put into production as the spring planting season gets underway, state media reported, citing an annual rural policy document and the nation’s top agricultural official.

Speaking recently at a teleconference on bolstering preparedness for spring plowing, Tang Renjian, director of the Central Rural Work Leading Group Office, urged local authorities to strengthen grain field management and shore up planting areas of major oil crops in the runup to the annual springtime planting season, which starts between February and May from south to north, China Daily reported.

Tang, also minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, emphasized that soybean production is part of China’s increased effort to curb its reliance on imported edible oil crops. He said the interventions were aimed at raising food productivity and securing a bumper harvest of crops, including wheat, soybean and rapeseed in the summer.

The Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture projects that China will import 96.5 million tonnes of soybeans in marketing year 2022-23, an increase from 91.566 million estimated for 2021-22. Total domestic consumption is expected to reach 115.3 million tonnes in 2022-23, up from 110.7 million the previous year.

In its annual rural policy blueprint, known as the “No. 1 central document,” issued on Feb. 13, the State Council, China’s cabinet, reiterated its oft-stated goal to boost grain production, state news agency Xinhua reported. 

As the first policy statement released by China’s central authorities each year, the document is seen as an indicator of policy priorities. Work on agriculture and rural areas has been a priority for two decades. 

The document called for enhanced efforts to stabilize production and ensure supply of grain and important agricultural products, boost the construction of agricultural infrastructure, and strengthen support for agricultural science, technology and equipment.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the nation of 1.4 billion people harvested 686.6 million tonnes of grain in 2022. 

Tang said local authorities must explore planting methods such as intercropping with corn to bolster soybean production and help farmers solve problems relating to farming equipment and techniques to improve production.

China said its crop rotation efforts had increased the area of soybean fields to 10.26 million hectares last year, the largest area since 1958, and pushed the crop’s output to 20.28 tonnes in 2022, the first time soybean output on the mainland has surpassed 20 million tonnes, according to the agriculture ministry figures.