Recent reports of fires at grain warehouses across China have sparked speculation that the facilities may have been set ablaze intentionally to skirt state inspections.
In Hunan Province this year, two fires occurred at Sinograin’s grain reserves, which may have been attempts to cover up false reporting about the warehouses’ contents, according to an Aug. 29 report by Chinese newspaper China Times.
To ensure that the country has enough food to feed its population, the Chinese regime has implemented a system of grain reserves. State-run food companies fill warehouses with grain purchased from local farmers, and prices are kept low with subsidies from the central government.
But the quality of the grain occasionally has been called into question. In 2015, a state media investigation of the grain reserves found that some warehouses in northeastern China were buying up old or inferior quality grains at discounted prices, passing them off as new grains, and selling them at higher prices.
The China Times reported on fires in February and May at the facilities of Sinograin, the state’s grain reserve corporation. On Feb. 25, a blaze at a office building in Hunan Province destroyed equipment and records. There were no injuries, primarily since the fire occurred on a Sunday. Many local residents posted videos of the blaze to social media at the time.
On May 13, a Sinograin warehouse in Hengyang City, also in Hunan Province, caught fire. While records exist of firefighters appearing on the scene to stop the fire, no official statement was ever released about estimated financial losses or what may have been damaged or destroyed in the fire.
State media on July 26 announced a notice from the State Council, stating that all grain reserves were to be inspected for quality and quantity. But a few days later, on July 29, local media reported a granary fire in Taonan City, Jilin Province in northeastern China.
The local grain authorities said that the fire had nothing to do with the inspection, although more granary fires have been reported since the inspection announcement, including in Jiaozuo City, Henan Province, and Guixi City, Jiangxi Province.
Netizens and Chinese media have raised the possibility that the fires are attempts at avoiding the inspections by destroying evidence.
In June 2013, a similar fire occurred in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, destroying almost 52,000 tons of corn and rice crops, just days after central authorities had dispatched special inspection teams to uncover corruption. An investigative report by the Sina news portal found that Sinograin ordinarily has a firefighting department to do regular inspections and prevent such occurrences.
The fact that a massive fire spread throughout the granary was suspicious, the report concluded.