Officials in China are taking steps to upgrade the edible oil industry as consumer demand rises.
The plan calls for avoiding new purchases of capital equipment from abroad, however.China is among the world's leading importers of edible oils, chiefly soybean and palm oil. In the first six months of last year, it bought more than 173,000 tons.
The Ministry of Commerce had drawn up what is described officially as an ambitious plan involving imported equipment and technology and domestic production of food oils drawing on the resources of more than 40 research institutes and factories.
State funding will be made available to equip factories with locally made
machinery, the ministry says, and the factories will be responsible for paying part of the cost. No specifics were given by officials Tuesday.
Beginning in 1982, China imported scores of systems to handle the processing and extraction of beans, cottonseed and rice bran from the United States, Europe and Japan.
"Though such advanced equipment enables some factories to provide the home market with better oil, we are still a long way short of handling total demand," said an official of the Grain and Food Oil Bureau in Beijing.
Moreover, the official said, "only a few factories have been equipped with foreign equipment, while many of the 300 food oil factories are still using backward machinery with high production costs."
With a new push for austerity now in force, officials say the hope for modernization must lie with locally produced equipment.
No new imports of oil-producing plant will be permitted by the Ministry unless they are deemed urgent, according to officials.
The Ministry's new plan appears to concentrate on production lines for oil refining and soybean processing. Under the program, a model factory equipped with locally made equipment should be set up by 1990.
Official forecasts put China's output of oil-bearing crops last year at 16.6 million tons, up 1.7 million tons from 1986 and reversing a decline in that year.
Chinese agriculture overall is going through a trying time, with some officials speaking of a potential crisis.
Pork and sugar are again rationed in many centers. Grain output is still below both targets and demand. Farmers are increasingly turning to cash crops or abandoning the land altogether for rural industries or big cities.
State economists and planners are reported to be sharply split on whether to increase investment - and if so, in which areas - since breaking up the huge and inefficient communes is a central pillar of the economic reforms.
China exported small quantities of edible vegetable oil and edible oilseeds in both 1984 and 1985, some to the United States.
Rapeseed, which accounts for 45 percent of all such crops, recorded the
bulk of the 1987 production increase. Output of peanuts, sesame seeds and sunflowers dropped. The Ministry of Agriculture gives no breakdown for crop output.