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China to boost amount of land used to grow soybeans, other oilseeds

BEIJING, Feb 21 (Reuters) - China plans to expand the amount of land it uses to grow soybeans and other oilseeds by around 330,000 hectares in 2019, its agriculture ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry did not give numbers for country's oilseed acreage in 2018, but the soybean area in the 2017/18 crop year that ended last September was 8.245 million hectares. The vast majority of China's oilseed crop is made up of soybeans.

Thursday's announcement came after China released its first policy statement of the year earlier in the week, which highlighted a plan to boost domestic soybean production.

The pledges come as Beijing remains entangled in an on-off trade war with the United States, its second largest supplier of soybeans.

Beijing has been seeking ways to reduce its reliance on U.S. soybeans, although the two sides have recently been in talks aimed at ending the trade dispute.

Beijing will further raise subsidies for soybean farmers in northern China to help expand acreage in the region, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in the announcement on its website.

China also plans to develop and promote new varieties of soybeans with high yields of oil and protein. The nation mainly uses soybeans to make soymeal, an animal feed ingredient.

Despite the push on domestic production, agriculture minister Han Changfu said on Wednesday that China would still rely on imports for soybean supplies.

Beijing also plans to expand rapeseed production around the Yangtze river and peanut planting in parts of northern China, according to Thursday's announcement.

China aims to keep its cotton acreage at 3.33 million hectares and sugar planting at about 1.53 million hectares in 2019, the document showed. (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Tom Daly; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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