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China, the world's top user of pesticides, aims to reduce their use in cultivation of fruit, vegetables and tea by a tenth within three years' time, the farm ministry said on Thursday, in an effort to curb chemicals in the food chain.

High levels of chemical pesticides and fertilisers are used to produce crops on China's small, heavily-exploited plots, but overuse can degrade the soil and pollute water, while improper use can cause contamination and hurt biodiversity.

The ministry also wants to reduce pesticide use on rice, wheat and corn by 5% in the same period, and step up use of organic fertilisers by the same amount by 2025.

"There is an urgent need to improve the efficiency and scientific use of pesticides and fertilizers when promoting the reduction of chemical pesticides," the ministry of agriculture and rural affairs said on its website.

At the same time, national food security and supplies of key products must be maintained, it said in its plan.

China began to tackle the problem in 2015, with a campaign to halt growth in use of chemicals by 2020.

While use of pesticides and fertilisers had dropped by 16.8% and 13.8% respectively by 2021, the country is still using too much and inefficiently, the ministry added.

A greater focus on natural enemies such as insects should be part of efforts to eliminate pests and disease, the ministry said, with such "green" prevention methods aimed to be used on more than 55% of planted area by 2025.

China has just 7% of the world's arable land, but soaks up a third of global consumption of chemical fertiliser, with its per unit use 2.7 times higher than the world average, said a state-backed publication, China Energy News.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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