The Grain Security Guarantee Law of the People’s Republic of China was adopted on 29 December 2023 at the 7th Session of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People’s Congress and will come into effect on 1 June 2024. The long-awaited law is composed of eleven chapters and 74 articles, providing a legal basis for grain security efforts in China.
Chapter 1: General provisions
The first chapter outlines the purpose, strategies, and responsibilities in place to ensure grain security in China. The law aims to guarantee effective grain supply, ensure national grain security, improve resilience to grain security risks, and maintain economic and social stability as well as national security. Various departments at local levels are tasked with cooperating to ensure effective grain security. Article 4 of the law states that the state shall strengthen international cooperation on grain security and maximize the role of international grain trade. Article 7 states that the state shall strengthen scientific and technological innovation and capacity in the grain sector.
Chapter 2: Protection of cultivated land
The second chapter provides measures to classify, protect, and improve farmland. According to the law, the state regulates territorial space and planning for agricultural land and designates red lines that seek to balance the protection of cultivated land with efforts to protect ecosystems and ensure urban development. Strict protection measures ensure the state can enforce these goals.
A compensation system is to ensure that farmland converted to non-agricultural uses will be compensated by making new farmland of the same quantity and quality available elsewhere. While the State Council determines protection tasks, local governments must ensure there is no net reduction in cultivated land. Particularly strict controls are in place to prevent the conversion of farmland zoned for grain production into woodland, grassland, or into arable land used for production other than grains. Illegal activities like afforestation on cultivated land and unauthorized lake digging for landscaping shall be prohibited. Cultivated land shall be mainly reserved for grain, cotton, oil, sugar, vegetables, forage, and fodder production.
A system for protecting cultivated land quality shall be established based on high-standard farmland construction. Monitoring measures such as soil improvement and restoration shall be taken to enhance productivity, control degraded land, and protect the production capacity of black soils.
Efforts shall be made to promote green and efficient grain production technologies and improve the ecological environment. Local governments shall promote the governance of abandoned land, encouraging the resumption of cultivation through measures like alternate farming. Contract-awarding parties can use abandoned land for agricultural production.
Comprehensive utilization of saline-alkali land shall be promoted through policies and private investment and efforts shall be made to develop saline-alkali resistant varieties and improve saline-alkali land to prevent its degradation.
Chapter 3: Grain production
Chapter three of the law covers grain production. The state shall strengthen protection and utilization of grain crop germplasm resources, establish a national crop variety database, improve breeding systems, and enhance informatization for germplasm resource protection. The state shall also strengthen the protection of plant new variety rights, support research in breeding and applied technologies, encourage innovation, and support independent intellectual property rights.
According to the law, authorities at or above provincial levels must establish a seed reserve system primarily for grain production and disaster response. Local governments (county level and above) shall coordinate stable supply of agricultural materials, guide scientific use of fertilizers and pesticides, and increase organic fertilizer application. Local governments shall oversee farmland water conservancy, protect and improve irrigation and drainage systems, and address soil erosion, pollution, and groundwater overexploitation.
The law states that the state shall promote agricultural machinery industries, enhance mechanization, encourage green and efficient machinery, and aim for full-process mechanization in grain production. The law also states that the state shall strengthen ag-tech extension services, support advanced technologies, promote intercropping, and encourage innovation in the roll-out of new technologies.
An early warning and monitoring system for natural and biological disasters must be established. The state must promote research on prevention and control technologies, strengthen implementation of territorial responsibilities, and focus on disease and insect pests prevention as well as oversee plant quarantine.
Chapter 4: Grain reserves
Chapter four of the law covers grain reserves. The state is to establish government grain reserve system, comprising central government reserves and local government reserves. The scale of central and local government grain reserves is determined by the State Council, with dynamic adjustments. The variety structure and regional distribution follow State Council regulations.
The operations of acquisition, sales, rotation, and utilization adhere strictly to national regulations. Entities entrusted with storing government grain reserves must comply with laws and regulations, separate reserve operations from commercial activities, establish sound internal management systems, implement safety and fire safety responsibilities, and ensure the security of government grain reserves. Central and provincial-level reserve entities must separate commercial operations. Processes of acquisition, sales, rotation, and utilization of government grain reserves must be fully documented to ensure real-time information collection, processing, transmission, and sharing for traceability and accessibility.
Entities entrusted with storing government grain reserves must ensure accurate accounting and implement dedicated warehousing, custodianship, and record-keeping. They must not falsify or conceal information about the quantity, quality, and variety of government grain reserves. Quality inspections must adhere to specified standards and grades.
Chapter 5: Grain circulation
Chapter five of the law covers grain circulation. The law states that the state shall strengthen management of the grain market, utilizing market mechanisms, establishing rules, maintaining market order, ensuring fair participation of grain operators in market competition, and safeguarding their legal rights.
Local governments above the county level should enhance the construction and protection of grain circulation infrastructure, ensuring it matches the scale of grain collection and storage in the region. They should guide private capital to invest in grain circulation infrastructure. Any unauthorized damage, removal, or change in use of government-invested grain circulation infrastructure is prohibited.
To protect market supply and the interests of grain producers, the State Council may, when necessary, decide to implement policy-driven grain purchases in key grain-producing areas based on the grain security situation and financial conditions. Large-scale operators engaged in grain procurement, processing, and sales must follow provincial regulations to maintain specific levels of grain inventory. The state shall establish and improve the grain risk fund system, primarily supporting grain reserves and stabilizing the grain market.
Chapter 6: Grain processing
Chapter six of the law covers grain processing. The law states that the state shall encourage and guide the development of the grain processing industry, with a focus on supporting the development of the industry in grain production zones and important agricultural product protection zones. It aims to coordinate primary processing, deep processing, and comprehensive utilization of grain, ensuring effective supply and quality safety of grain processing products. Operators in grain processing must adhere to national standards, ensuring product quality and safety, and they are subject to supervision.
Chapter 7: Emergency management of grain supply
Chapter seven of the law states that the State Council, in collaboration with relevant departments in charge of development and reform, grain, and reserves, will formulate a national emergency plan for grain supply, subject to approval by the State Council. Provincial, autonomous regional, and municipal governments shall formulate their own emergency plans based on the actual situation in their administrative regions. The formulation of emergency plans for grain supply by prefecture-level and county-level governments shall be decided by the provincial, autonomous regional, or municipal governments.
Chapter 8: Grain loss and waste
Chapter eight of the law covers grain conservation. The state shall promote grain conservation and fight grain waste. Governments at or above the county level must establish a mechanism that combines guidance, incentives, and punishment education, strengthen leadership, supervision, and management of grain conservation, and promote grain conservation efforts. The state shall encourage and support the promotion of practical technologies such as timely agricultural machinery harvesting and on-site drying, guiding and supporting grain producers in scientific harvesting, storage, and improving conditions to ensure good grain quality and reduce post-harvest losses.
Chapter 9: Supervision and management
Chapter nine of the law speicifies the responsibilities and tasks of the different institutions involved in implementing the law. Relevant departments of governments at or above the county level, including development and reform commissions and departments of agriculture, grain reserve management, natural resources, water administration, ecological environment, market supervision, industry and information technology, etc., should conduct supervision and inspections on grain production, reserves, circulation, processing, and others in accordance with their responsibilities. They should establish a coordination mechanism and information-sharing mechanism for grain safety supervision.
The State Council’s relevant departments such as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), or the National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration should establish a grain safety monitoring and early warning system, strengthen risk assessment, and improve the grain safety information release mechanism. The State Council’s relevant departments, in collaboration with other relevant departments, should assess the implementation of land protection and grain security responsibilities by provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government. Foreign investment in grain production and operation that may affect national security should undergo a security review according to relevant national regulations.
Chapter 10: Legal responsibilities
Chapter ten of the law specifies strict penalties for various violations. Local or higher-level authorities who fail to fulfill their responsibilities for ensuring grain security or engage in other misconduct such as abusing their powers, neglecting their duties, or acting for personal gain shall be disciplined according to the law.
Planting of crops that are not in line with land use requirements (e.g., planning cash crops on farmland zoned for grain production) can result in disciplinary measures by the authorities. If the violation persists, relevant agricultural production and operation organizations may be denied certain subsidies. Penalties, including fines, can also be imposed according to the law.
Enterprises or organizations entrusted with government grain reserves can be penalized for various offenses related to the non-compliance with regulations regarding the acquisition, sale, rotation, and use of government grain reserves.
Unlawful actions such as encroaching upon, damaging, dismantling, or moving government-invested grain circulation infrastructure, or changing its purpose without authorization, can result in orders to cease illegal activities, restore the original state within a specified period, or take other remedial measures. Failure to comply may lead to fines ranging from 5,000 RMB to 50,000 RMB for individuals and from 50,000 RMB to 500,000 RMB for organizations.
During a grain emergency, individuals or entities refusing to obey the unified command and coordination of the local government or not cooperating with emergency measures may receive warnings. Failure to correct their behavior can result in fines ranging from 2,000 RMB to 20,000 RMB for individuals and from 20,000 RMB to 200,000 RMB for organizations. In serious cases, fines may range from 20,000 RMB to 200,000 RMB for individuals and from 200,000 RMB to 2,000,000 RMB for organizations.
Intentional destruction of young grain crops planted on cultivated land may result in orders to stop the illegal activity. For severe cases, fines may be imposed up to five times the value of the destroyed grain crops. Violations of laws and regulations related to land management, cultivated land protection, seeds, agricultural product quality and safety, food safety, anti-food waste, and industrial safety will be handled or penalized according to the relevant laws and regulations.
Individuals responsible for causing harm to others due to violations of this law may be held liable for compensation. Violations that constitute offenses against public order will be subject to public security management penalties, and those constituting crimes will be criminally prosecuted according to the law.
Chapter 11: Additional provisions
Chapter eleven of the law provides supplementary information. It defines “grain” as wheat, rice, corn, soybeans, miscellaneous grains, and their processed products. Miscellaneous grains include millet, sorghum, barley, buckwheat, oats, highland barley, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other tubers.
This is the first law addressing grain security in China. The need for a legal document reflects the urgency with which policymakers seek to ensure China’s grain security in the face of domestic and external challenges. With its vague language and many clauses that are open to interpretation, it remains to be seen how the law will be implemented in practice. For now, three observations are in order:
- The focus of the law is on grain security rather than food security more broadly understood. Despite a shift towards more diversified diets, the law privileges the production of grains over other food products. At the same time, there is no recognition that pressures on grain production are mostly due to increases in feed grain demand needed to support the growing livestock industry. Promoting dietary changes that could ease pressure on grain demand are not considered by the law.
- The law emphasizes production over productivity. While there are some clauses calling for technological innovation, the law does not specifically task relevant actors with introducing resource-saving and productivity-enhancing technologies. The focus appears to be on protecting the amount of farmland used for grain production and maintaining output.
- Authorities at all levels face more responsibility to ensure that farmland protection and grain production goals are met. It remains to be seen how local cadres will handle these new responsibilities in practice without resorting to campaign-style measures that may ultimately prove counterproductive.