BEIJING (Reuters) - China's gold output hit a record 340.88 tonnes in 2010, up 8.57 percent from the previous year, the Xinhua news agency said on Sunday, citing data from the China Gold Association. The figure confirmed an earlier forecast by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that China was on course to produce more than 340 tonnes of gold in 2010. Gold production in the top gold-producing provinces -- Shandong, Henan, Jiangxi, Yunnan and Fujian -- accounted for 59.82 percent of the total, it said. China's top 10 gold producers contributed to 49.19 percent of the total output last year, while the number of gold producers had fallen to just over 700 from 1,200 in 2002 because of a government drive to consolidate the sector, it said. China, which overtook South Africa as the world's top gold producer in 2007, has raised gold output every year since 2004. Output in 2009 was 313.98 tonnes. Despite the rapid growth, China's surging domestic demand has also sparked a surge in imports, which rose six-fold in the first 10 months of 2010 to reach 209.72 tonnes. "The rise in China's gold production capacity is significant as it helps enhance the nation's ability to cope with financial risks and maintain economic and financial safety," Xinhua said. Gold has become more attractive to governments and individuals globally as they seek to hedge against rising inflation on the back of financial market volatility, it said.