China vowed to expand domestic crop production and strengthened its plan to ensuring grain and food security after imports surged to unprecedented levels.

New agriculture minister Tang Renjian pledged to improve crop yields of locally-grown rice, wheat, soybeans and corn while protecting against farmland loss, according to a report on the ministry’s website. He said maintaining stable food production will be a priority under the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan, which will set out key economic and political goals for 2021 to 2025.

China’s local production has been unable to keep pace with its burgeoning demand for animal feed as its hog population rebounds faster than expected from African swine fever. Imports soared in 2020, and there are expectations that China is on its way to become the world’s largest corn buyer, just like soybeans, where the nation currently imports about 60% of global trade.

“We must ensure that the Chinese rice bowl is filled mainly with Chinese grains, and that Chinese grains should use mainly Chinese seeds,” said Tang, who replaced Han Changfu last month as the minister of agriculture and rural affairs.

To achieve this, China will expand corn growing areas mainly in the northeast regions and along the Yellow River, as well as stabilize soybean production. The ministry is working with local authorities to improve the subsidy policy and compensation mechanism for grain farmers, according to Tang.

For rice, the nation will maintain the area for double-season production in the south while trying to increase yields. It will also recover wheat acreage in China’s north and northwest, said Tang, who is the former governor of the region’s Gansu province.

The ministry aims to increase construction of high-standard farmland with irrigation facilities by 25% this year. It also pledged to achieve total grains output of at least 650 million tons in 2021. Last year, China produced about 670 million tons.