Market Matters Blog

China Steps Away from Self-Sufficiency

China's hungry. And with a growing population, an insecure food supply could quickly turn into a dangerous political situation for the country's leaders. That's part of why China has been determined to be self-sufficient in food production, particularly in meat production.

But a recent article in the South China Morning Post suggests that could be changing, or at least there's debate about it. Chen Xiwen, director of the Chinese Communist Party's leading policy making body for rural affairs, told a policy-making conference that current food supplies will come under increasing pressure as incomes improve, and while China need to boost production, it can't backtrack on imports.

"During the process of urbanisation, we must pay attention to modern agricultural development and to farm product supplies, but of course, we certainly cannot pursue self-sufficiency," he said, noting that last year's import volume amounted to around 12 per cent of China's total food demand.

Another Chinese researcher echoed him: "For a country with 1.3 billion people, it is impossible to rely on ourselves to guarantee all farm products supplies. To ensure grain security and supplies of major farm products does not mean that we should go back to the way of self-sufficiency."

China's grain and soybean imports surpassed 70 million metric tons last year, a first. Farm imports accounted for about 12% of China's domestic consumption, the article stated.

It would be a tall order for China to become truly self-sufficient in grain production, let alone all food production. China had a record corn crop last year and still relied on imports. They're even more reliant on imported soybeans. So for the farmer in the U.S., China's realization that it needs imports to feed its population means they're going to keep buying.

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1/28/2013 | 8:52 PM CST
That's alright we will supply them