China Bans Cell Phones in Granaries after Video Shows Moldy Corn

To go with: China-economy-drought-farm,FOCUS by Boris CambrelengFarmers walk between fields in eastern China, where a record drought threatens to push global food prices up on February 22, 2011. The Chinese government has allocated 13 billion yuan ($2 billion) to combat the drought and the central bank announced this week it …
PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images

A recent ban on photo-taking devices inside Chinese state granaries has prompted concern China could be suffering from a grain shortage, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Monday.

China Grain Reserves Cooperative (Sinograin) issued an order last week banning all photo-taking devices from a storehouse unit in Heilongjiang, a northeastern province bordering Russia.

The ban followed shortly after a video was posted to the Chinese social media outlet Weibo in mid-July of what appeared to be a pile of moldy corn inside a Sinograin warehouse in the Heilongjiang city of Zhaodong, located in Zhaozhou county.

“Much of the grain appeared to be moldy and mixed with bits of dirt and other foreign matter,” the SCMP reported. Sinograin is the Chinese state agency in charge of the nation’s strategic grain stockpiles.

In recent months, China has seen its national grain stockpile threatened by economic constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a drought in the country’s north, and immense summer flooding in the south. China made two record-setting purchases of corn from the U.S. within the past few weeks, sparking speculation that the world’s most populous nation could be facing a grain shortage.

The viral video of moldy corn in Zhaodong last month, followed by a swift ban on photo-taking devices in granaries, prompted a wave of criticism on Chinese social media, which the government heavily censors. Many citizens said the ban on cell phones in state granaries seemed to confirm that national grain reserves were deteriorating in quality, arguing that Sinograin was attempting to prevent further exposure of the dwindling stockpiles.

In response to the speculation, Sinograin issued a statement via Weibo on August 2, “confirming the clip showed the Zhaozhou warehouse but adding that the parent company was not trying to conceal any problems.” Despite Sinograin’s denials of a grain shortage, “a nearly 30 percent jump in futures prices since January still suggests a domestic supply gap in [Chinese] corn,” the SCMP noted.

Responding to the increased prices, China has boosted its corn purchases from the U.S. Last week, Beijing inked a deal for 1.937 million tons of U.S. corn, China’s single largest purchase of U.S. corn ever. Confirming the purchase on July 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it “topped the previous biggest deal to China of 1.762 million tons, reported just two weeks ago,” and was the “the third-largest deal for corn to any destination on record.”


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