BEIJING, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature held an inquiry Friday into the government's report on grain safety in an effort to improve the legislative supervisory role.
Entrusted by the State Council, or China's Cabinet, senior officials from nine government agencies, such as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), attended the inquiry to answer questions raised by lawmakers at a bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature.
Such inquiries are believed to be a concrete and important step for the top legislature to exercise and improve supervision of the government.
Zhang Ping, minister in charge of China's top economic planning body, the NDRC, issued the report on the country's grain safety on Thursday and lawmakers began to deliberate and make inquiries on the report on Friday.
This is the second inquiry held by the top legislature this year. In its June session, lawmakers held an inquiry into the central government's final accounting for 2009.
INTENSE Q&A SESSION
The NPC Standing Committee's vice chairwoman, Oyunqemag, and 21 other lawmakers peppered government officials with more than 20 questions at the inquiry.
Responding to a question on the impact of frequent natural disasters including drought, freezing weather and floods on this year's harvest, Vice Agriculture Minister Chen Xiaohua admitted that grain production has been negatively impacted.
Chen, however, said because the central authority introduced preferential policies in a timely manner, the grain crops harvested in the summer maintained the same level as in previous years, though the harvest of early rice dropped a bit.
He also said he was optimistic about the harvest in autumn, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the country's grain output because the seeded area has been increased and the growth of the crops was good at present.
When asked whether the influx of foreign capital affected China's grain safety, the NDRC's vice minister, Peng Sen, said foreign companies mainly invest in the processing of cooking oil, feed, and grain in China.
For example, foreign companies produced about 50 percent of the country's edible vegetable oil, according to Peng.
Foreign companies brought with them advanced technologies, management experiences and capital and promoted competition in the industry, but they had, to some extent, negatively impacted the country's market regulations, supply guarantees, and stabilization of grain prices, Peng said.
Peng added that the government would take measures, which are in line with World Trade Organization rules, to step up management on foreign investment in the industry to create fair competition and healthy development.
Responding to a question on whether China's grain prices would experience major fluctuations in the future amid a marked rise in farm produce prices in the international market, the NDRC's vice minister, Zhang Xiaoqiang, said the government could ensure no major fluctuations occur in the grain market.
Zhang said though natural disasters this year hampered the grain harvest, the country has enough grain in storage to head off any problems.
In addition, China's imported wheat, corn and rice only account for less than 1 percent of its respective output, so the international price hike would have little impact on domestic prices, he said.
Responding to lawmakers' concerns about the diminishing cultivated land area in China, Vice Land and Resources Minister Wang Shiyuan said, though the government has successfully curbed the decrease in cultivated areas, the situation was still "grave."
China's cultivated land area decreased by 123 million mu (about 8.2 million hectares) from 1997 to 2009, he said.
The government would enhance control and supervision on the planning of land use and improve specific laws to ensure the demand of cultivated land for the country's grain security, Wang said.