Provincial authorities in China are investing funds and in talent to develop new rice brands and increase cultivation of some time-honored varieties, as the nation steps up measures to bolster food security.
The northern port city of Tianjin plans to increase the area under cultivation of its Xiaozhan Rice, a national favorite over the past few hundred years, to 66,667 hectares by 2022.
The variety, dating back to the North Song Dynasty (960-1127), had a time-honored status in China due to its distinct aroma and taste. However, the area under cultivation had dwindled over the years.
Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier had discussions with agricultural experts and stressed the importance of planting century-old quality grains and he called for further development of Xiaozhan rice.
Responding to the president's call, Tianjin announced a Xiaozhan Rice Revitalization Campaign and injected funds to the tune of 18 million yuan ($2.54 million) to boost the area under cultivation from 20,000 hectares in 2016 to 53,333 hectares by the end of this year.
Much of these efforts seem to have paid off. The city's average total output of Xiaozhan Rice reached 11,940 kg per hectare, local authorities said during a recent agricultural summit.
Shen Xin, Party secretary of Tianjin Committee of Agricultural and Rural Affairs, said: "The city has teamed up with top research institutes and companies, including the Institute of Genetics and Biology Development under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tianjin Food Group and Haiken Group for improving plantation standards, developing quality seeds and advanced planting technologies for the major plantation areas in Jinnan, Ninghe, Baodi and Xiqing districts."
In Baodi district, Tianjin Food Group has invested up to 30 million yuan to increase the plantation area to 2,066 hectares this year, according to Tianjin TV.
However, the campaign to promote the time-honored rice variety is not confined to Tianjin alone. China has taken several concrete measures to boost rice plantations in other areas.
Provincial authorities in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province are spending 50 million yuan to promote Daohuaxiang Rice, one of China's most popular rice varieties. In East China's Jiangsu province, where Xiaozhan and Daohuaxiang were the dominant brands traditionally, authorities have unveiled Su Rice, a local brand, to boost regional rice plantations and sales.
Chen Wenfu, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said Xiaozhan and Daohuaxiang belong to the Jingmi variety, or polished round grain rice, which is favored by people in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan province.
Li Jiayang, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the academy is conducting research on a new rice variety that can help reduce diabetes. "If the new variety is promoted on a national scale, the overall health of residents will improve."