China food security: cash rewards for whistle-blowers mark widening crackdown on grain corruption: Report

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China food security: cash rewards for whistle-blowers mark widening crackdown on grain corruption: Report

China is offering cash rewards to whistle-blowers who expose corruption in its grain sector – up to 150,000 yuan (US$21,000) – in a bid to shore up food security, says a report in the South China Morning (SCMP).

People who provide valuable clues that expose illegal practices in the buying and selling of grain meant for national reserves will be rewarded in cash, as an anti-graft campaign in the grain industry deepens, according to a central government directive issued last week, the dispatch said.

The offer is meant to “mobilise the public” in the poorly regulated grain reserve system, which Beijing regards as the “ballast stone” of food security, according to the directive, jointly issued by the National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration and the Ministry of Finance.

It came as China’s top leadership has been increasingly emphasising the need to remain self-sufficient in feeding its 1.4 billion people in recent years amid growing challenges from climate change and an uncertain global market due to soured ties with the West and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The latest move is also part of a nationwide corruption crackdown on the opaque grain sector since 2021, which has so far brought down dozens of officials at state and provincial levels, including former party chief of the administration, Zhang Wufeng.

Compared to “rats” and “moths” that secretly eat away at grain reserves, the ensnared authorities have been found to have either abused their power for personal interests or neglected their duty, leading to a loss of government funds, according to previous state media reports.

The grain sector has remained one of the areas most cracked down on this year, according to a communique from a January meeting of China’s top anti-corruption body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Various local discipline bodies have since publicised cases in which officials – including those who might be of low level but have centralised power over stockpiles – embezzled government subsidies, took bribes or resold grain reserves, SCMP report said further, adding that in one case revealed by Anhui province in April, three leaders of the province’s state-owned grain group allegedly took more than 10 million yuan (US$1.4 million) worth of bribes, and their actions led to the embezzlement of 230 million yuan meant for food trade.

China has not revealed the total size of its grain reserves, but officials have reiterated in recent years that there were ample stockpiles. Reserves of wheat and rice were enough to feed the nation for an entire year, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said at a press conference last month.

However, “there are a lot of hidden dangers in food security due to increasing difficulty in stabilising farmland size, poor quality and worrisome food safety, huge waste, and frequent cases of corruption,” the state-owned Economic Daily newspaper warned in a commentary last week.

With its strong emphasis on agricultural security, China has recorded an annual grain output of more than 650 million tonnes for eight consecutive years. But this year’s harvest is at risk, as more extreme climate events are expected to affect crops.