BEIJING – China plans to invest 30 billion dollars on water conservation projects in 2011 to reduce the impact of natural disasters on grain production, state media said Saturday.

The report comes after severe flooding and droughts across the country this year destroyed crops and drove up food prices, pushing inflation to its highest level in more than two years in November.

The investment -- up 10 percent on year -- would go towards improving irrigation and projects to combat weather-related disasters, the China Daily said, citing water resources minister Chen Lei.

China has invested a little over 100 billion dollars in water projects in the past five years, the report said.

"We have to accelerate the construction of water conservation facilities as one of the key infrastructures the country needs to secure increasing grain production," Chen was quoted saying.

The consumer price index, a key measure of inflation, topped five percent last month as food costs soared nearly 12 percent on year, official data shows.

Ever-fearful of inflation's historical potential to spark unrest, Beijing has ordered a range of steps to boost supplies of key goods, crack down on speculators and offer financial help to the most needy.

After one of the country's worst years for natural disasters, the government estimates that more than 80 million people will need food relief this winter, the official Xinhua news agency said last month.

A leading agriculture expert last month warned that climate change could trigger a 10 percent drop in China's grain harvest over the next 20 years, threatening the country's food security.

Tang Huajun, deputy dean of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, warned crop production could fall by five to 10 percent by 2030 if climate change continues unchecked, state media have reported.

China, which is expected to produce 546.4 million tonnes of grain in 2010, plans to increase output to 550 million tonnes by 2020 to ensure food security for the world's most populous country of more than 1.3 billion.

The environmental watchdog Greenpeace said in a recent report that China's food supply would be insufficient by 2030 and its overall food production could fall by 23 percent by 2050.