February 29, 2024

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Addressing Food Security in China: Achieving Self-Sufficiency and Stabilizing Grain Production

China's urgent steps to achieve food self-sufficiency and stabilize grain production to address import vulnerabilities.

Xi Jinping – who holds the position of President in China, called for greater emphasis on achieving and maintaining a state of food self-sufficiency in response to recent concerns about weaknesses exposed with its national supply chains. The government’s target for the year 2023 outlined in their annual work report involves achieving a stable grain output with a target exceeding 650 million tonnes, known popularly as ‘military order’ by China’s agriculture minister.

Despite this fact, China’s per capita grains production saw a mere increase from the year 2013 with a recorded value of four hundred sixty-two point five kilograms compared to four hundred eighty-three point five kilograms currently, China has become increasingly dependent on imports thereby creating several vulnerabilities which may be taken advantage of during periods of crisis. The fact that China is at present the primary manufacturer and buyer of multiple types of foods means any attempt at ensuring their own food safety will undoubtedly have a broader effect on global markets.

Without prompt measures put in place soon enough to address the trend of decreasing food self-sufficiency rates experienced by China since the year 2000, as a result of growing dependence on imported essential foods in China, the issue of food insecurity has become more serious. Therefore, the rise in China’s import dependency for food products since 2004 can be attributed to the fact that its citizens are increasingly opting for imported items instead of domestically produced ones due to factors such as dwindling cultivable lands, unproductive seed varieties, higher production costs at home & worries over the quality control processes surrounding their preferred local brands.

China has become heavily reliant on importing soybean, corn, wheat, rice, and dairy products over recent years, making it the leading nation in this regard. The value of importation for cereals & cereal flour was 1 billion dollars in 2013 a staggering amount of $20.08 billion importation rate as of the current year.

The amount of Cereals and Cereal Flour that was brought into the country experienced exponential growth increasing by almost five times its original amount between the years 2020 to 2021 reflecting more than 65 times as much, but China’s import dependency had significantly risen following the commencement of the US-China trade war in 2018, making them more vulnerable.

The importation numbers of China’s corn exports are following suit with those seen across its other agricultural industries such as soybeans and wheat – climbing up significantly over recent years with an impressive jump of 152% YoY, bringing import figures up to approximately 28 million tonnes during the last quarter. However, decreasing reliance on America and ongoing tensions with Ukraine during 2022 meant that corn imports from China dropped. The current reality represents a challenge to China’s goal to guarantee basic self-sufficiency of grain as well as absolute security for staple foods, which was mentioned in their 2019 white paper.

There is a reason to be concerned as China depends too much on seed imports, particularly in the production of non-staples, but while only constituting less than 1% of its total seed supply, China faces a shortage of high-quality imported seeds used to cultivate rice and wheat. In addition to lacking innovative ideas, China’s agricultural sector faces obstacles such as low-quality seeds and inefficiency, compared to their Western counterparts who dominate the global market share, Chinese businesses only possess a mere 5% control. Even though it has managed to obtain domestic cereals in terms of seed procurement in China, it still faces the dependency on importing vegetable, corn, and maize seed varieties from other countries, due partly because of safety concerns now surrounding GM crop planting within the country. China has designated full commercial-scale production exclusively towards cultivating GM strains for corn and soybean products.

Addressing Food Security in China

The Chinese government has identified an urgent need to achieve self-reliance in agriculture and stabilize grain production because of the country’s reliance on imports and vulnerabilities relating to its existing national food reserves, therefore, to address this pressing matter the government has taken numerous steps including:

  • By encouraging farmers to adopt innovative agricultural techniques alongside providing them with high-quality seeds and fertilizers and subsidies, the government is delicately striving towards achieving its objective of boosting domestic production.
  • The quality of edible products in our country is one area where the administration is focusing on improvement. The government has enforced multiple measures to assure higher levels of hygiene during production and better supervision during transportation.
  • To lessen their dependence on any one specific place for importing goods and to broaden their options, the government is diversifying import sources. To decrease their dependency on the US for soybean imports, recently China has increased their purchase from Brazil and Argentina.

To encourage innovative practices within the agricultural industry such as improving crop yields or developing more efficient processes for irrigation or harvesting crops, it has advocated funding projects aimed at exploring novel technological solutions alongside optimizing traditional approaches based on utilization towards newer farming strategies.

Conclusion

Due to China’s heavy reliance on imports for food supply and resulting vulnerability, it has become imperative that the government take necessary steps to address these concerns. Therefore, the top priority for the government is to attain food self-sufficiency while stabilizing grain output to secure our nation and reduce import dependency. The government has taken several measures to address this issue which includes increasing domestic production and developing new land while also putting emphasis on diversifying import sources for food safety, as having a trustworthy and stable food supply is crucial for China’s economy as well as its society which explains why these measures are put into effect.

Insights:

https://www.cfr.org/article/china-increasingly-relies-imported-food-thats-problem#:~:text=Between%202000%20and%202020%2C%20the,%2C%20meat%2C% 20and%20processed%20foods.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/china-seawater-rice-food-security/

https://thediplomat.com/2023/02/what-do-we-really-know-about-chinas-food-security/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9819472/

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