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LEAD: China receives last shipment of U.N. food.

BEIJING, April 7 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH ARRIVAL OF SHIPMENT)

The U.N. World Food Program has shipped its last batch of food -- 43,450 tons of Canadian wheat -- to China after 25 years feeding millions of people in a country now wealthy enough to shift from food receiver to food donor, WFP officials said Thursday.

The $7.2 million shipment of Canadian wheat, which reached a port in Shenzhen earlier Thursday, will support poverty-alleviation projects in three northern areas -- the provinces of Shanxi and Gansu, and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region -- and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of southwestern China.

China, which paid for the shipping costs, has received U.N. food since 1979 for its central and western regions. The food is provided to needy people either directly or through local ''food-for-work'' and ''food-for-training'' projects.

In February 2001, China and the WFP agreed that China's economic, nutritional and food security indicators showed that it had attained national self-sufficiency and no longer needed the U.N. provisions.

In fact, over the past five to 10 years, China has been giving food or food-related technical help to other nations, such as Cambodia and Myanmar. It has also increased donations to the WFP measurably over the past year, and committed $1 million for the agency's Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster relief work.

''Gradually they're stepping up to the plate and becoming a donor country,'' said Douglas Broderick, the WFP's China representative in China. ''They indicated that their intention would be to increase donations.''

The U.N. food program now needs China, he said. ''Since China has done such a good job of alleviating poverty and bringing people out of hunger, we need them as an ally.''

The WFP says on its website that it has been providing food to China in recent years as the country's national food self-sufficiency ''hides huge regional disparities in food insecurity in marginal and remote areas.'' The food aid covers the needs of a core group of mostly seasonally food-insecure households for up to three months.

China has been able to feed itself because of better harvests and packaging of foods over the past three years, said Liu Cheng, senior engineer with the China Food Research Institute.

''We have enough food to give processed grains to southern Asia,'' Liu said. ''Fruit products, meats and beverages -- we're importing all of these.''

Although China must import grains from North America to supplement domestic reserves, the reserves are growing. The Chinese agriculture minister said earlier this month that 2004 grain production was 469.5 million tons, up 38.77 tons over the previous year, because farmers planted more ''intensively'' and used ''scientific'' cultivation methods.

The WFP currently provides food to 90 million people, including 56 million children, in more than 80 countries.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Apr 11, 2005
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