China to invest in 3 million hectares of Ukrainian farmland: Media

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China is to buy 3 million hectares of Ukrainian farmland, media said on Sunday, which would make Ukraine China's largest overseas farming centre as it strives to keep pace with rising food demand.

China's official Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps has signed an agreement with Ukrainian agricultural firm KSG Agro, which would see Ukraine provide 100,000 hectares to China.

That would eventually rise to 3 million hectares, the South China Morning Post said.

Chinese experts have said China must expand its overseas farming to ensure sufficient food supplies because of its limited land and low productivity.

China accounts for a fifth of the global population but only nine percent of its land. Demand for food is rising as incomes rise.

The 50-year plan was mainly aimed at growing crops and raising pigs, the Hong Kong newspaper said, citing a statement from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC).

In 2009, China had a total of just over 2 million hectares of farming land abroad, the newspaper said, quoting an agriculture expert.

A spokesman at the government-linked XPCC said he was not aware of the statement and did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for confirmation of the report.

China's overseas expansion in agriculture has raised some concern. In June, Australian politicians called for greater scrutiny over farm purchases by foreign buyers. Chinese investors bought up Australia's biggest cotton farm in 2012.

China, which has aims to be 95 percent self-sufficient in food, also suffers from fears over food safety after a series of scandals ranging from melamine-tainted milk to toxic heavy metals in rice and vegetables.

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