Import Reliance and China’s Food Security

China’s dependence on imported food has grown over the past decade, and its corn imports have filled over the recent couple of years. China’s foreign policy calculations are impacted by the issue of food security, and Western sanctions during a China-Taiwan conflict could make China vulnerable.

  • The public authority work report for 2023 has proclaimed adjustment of grain yield as one of the main concerns for the public authority. However, China’s dependence has created a number of vulnerabilities.
  • China’s rate of food self-sufficiency has decreased from 101.8% in 2000 to 76.8% in 2020, and is expected to fall to 65 percent by 2035 if timely measures are not taken.
  • Since 2004, China has become a net importer of food items, and its dependence on imported food has grown over the past decade. Since 2018, China’s dependence on imports has largely increased, and its corn imports have likewise filled over the most recent couple of years. This has gone against China’s goal of “ensuring basic self-sufficiency of grain and absolute security of staple food”.
  • China is the largest soybean importer in the world, and gets 90% of its soybean imports from the United States and Brazil alone. This reliance has diminished beginning around 2018 inferable from the exchange war, but is as yet huge thinking about China’s limited other options.
  • China’s plan to increment horticulture creation by zeroing in on development of arable land is to build 1.2 billion mu (197 million acres) of high-quality farmland by 2030.
  • China plans to increase domestic soybean production by 40% by 2025, but faces difficulties like low yield per unit region, low similar advantages of soybean cultivating, and powerless association among makers and markets.
  • China is increasing its capacity to store important food grains and expanding state-sponsored breeding and production centers for seeds in an effort to enhance their quality and guarantee a supply of 80 percent seeds from these bases by 2025.
  • During the US-China trade war, China has refocused its imports from Australia, Brazil, and Argentina to avoid US supplies, and has reached an agreement with Australia to resume barley supply, reducing its reliance on European nations.
  • The Sitong bridge protest, which took place just a few days prior to the 20th Party Congress, demonstrated how China’s foreign policy calculations are impacted by the issue of food security.
  • China’s greater import dependence means that any disruption in the global food supply chain could have serious consequences, and Western sanctions during a China-Taiwan conflict could also make China vulnerable.
(Picture Credit: SIPRI)

The issue of food security has made headlines. In this article, he brought up that the Russia-Ukraine emergency has shown that horticulture has turned into a “groundwork of public safety” and called for food independence as one of the first concerns before very long.

Indeed, even the public authority work report for 2023 has proclaimed adjustment of grain yield as one of the main concerns for the public authority and plans to accomplish grain result of more than 650 million tons (alluded to as ‘military request’ by China’s agribusiness serve), which has been persistently accomplished starting around 2015

However, China’s grain production per capita has only slightly increased under Xi, rising from 462.5 kg in 2013 to 483.5 kg in 2021. Xi claims that this has led to an increase in import dependence during the same time, which is a threat to national security. China’s dependence has created a number of vulnerabilities that could be used in a crisis. China is at present the biggest maker as well as the biggest merchant of a few other food things and in this way, China’s food security endeavors will definitely affect the world.

The Extent of Import Dependency

The Level of Import Dependence The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has established three levels of food self-sufficiency: a country with a food deficit of less than 80 percent, food self-sufficiency of 80 to 120 percent, and food surplus of more than 120 percent. China’s rate of food self-sufficiency has decreased from 101.8% in 2000 to 76.8% in 2020, and if timely measures are not taken, it is expected to fall to 65 percent by 2035.

China imports more dairy products, soybeans, corn, wheat, and rice than any other nation, and this dependence has largely grown over the past decade. For instance, from $5.1 billion in 2013 to $20.08 billion in 2021, the import value of cereals and cereal flour quadrupled.

Cereals and cereal flour imports have increased fivefold in volume, going from 13.9 million tonnes in 2012 to 65.4 million tonnes in 2021. Additionally, China’s corn imports have likewise filled over the most recent couple of years, particularly in 2021 when China imported 28.35 million tons of corn, an increment of 152% from the earlier year. According to China’s 2019 white paper, this reality also goes against the goal of “ensuring basic self-sufficiency of grain and absolute security of staple food.”

The Case of Soybean Imports

Soybean is an important oil crop and a significant feed crop for China’s livestock industry. Almost 95% of this soybean is utilized to create soy oil for preparing and soybean dinner for its gigantic pork and poultry industry. As one of the indicators of food inflation that is based on the availability of soybeans, pork prices are thought to be extremely sensitive.

Subsequently, China alone records for around 60% of worldwide soybean exchange. Even though domestic production of soybeans has increased over the past few years to reach 20.28 million tonnes in 2022, China continues to import approximately 82% of its total demand for soybeans, making it the largest soybean importer in the world.

As a result, it became a major point of contention during the US-China trade war because the US supplied approximately $16 billion worth of soybeans to China in 2022, accounting for nearly one third of China’s total imports of soybeans. China gets 90% of its soybean imports from the United States and Brazil alone. Albeit this reliance has diminished beginning around 2018 inferable from the exchange war, it is as yet huge thinking about China’s restricted other options.

Domestic Production is Key

By 2019, China only had about 9% of the world’s arable land, or approximately 2.3 billion mu, to feed over 20% of the world’s population. As a result, in order to boost domestic production, the “National land planning (2016-2030) outline” calls for the construction of 1.2 billion mu (197 million acres) of high-quality farmland by 2030.

China intends to increase domestic soybean production by nearly 40% by 2025 for specific goods. In any case, it faces difficulties like low yield per unit region, low similar advantages of soybean cultivating, and powerless association among makers and markets.

It includes things like increasing subsidies, providing soybean producers with financial and credit support, encouraging soybean intercropping with corn, strengthening the supply chain of soybeans from farms to markets, and so on.
During the US-China trade war, the US’s dominance of China’s food imports may be detrimental to China. As a result, China has refocused its imports from Australia, Brazil, and Argentina to avoid US supplies.

In a similar vein, China has reached an agreement with Australia to resume barley supply, reducing its reliance on European nations. In this way, China has been continually putting forth attempts to decrease its reliance on Western nations which has brought about its expansion in imports from other agricultural nations.

(Picture Credit: Wiley Online Library)

Conclusion

The acknowledgment of financial advantage to normal residents has been the bedrock of CPC’s authenticity in China. Nonetheless, disappointment in guaranteeing food security can quickly dissolve this authenticity. The Sitong bridge protest, which took place just a few days prior to the 20th Party Congress and saw protesters demand food rather than COVID tests, demonstrated this.

In addition, China’s foreign policy calculations are impacted by the issue, as demonstrated by the trade war’s exploitation of China’s soybean dependence on the US. In the event of Western sanctions during a China-Taiwan conflict, this could also make China vulnerable.

Along these lines, China plans to get food locally however much as could reasonably be expected before it makes any extreme strides against Taiwan. It remains to be seen whether China will be able to accomplish this given its limited arable land and other domestic issues.

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