Earth Policy Institute: Can the World Feed China?

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Can the World Feed China? 

Lester R. Brown

www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2014/update121

Earth Policy Release
Plan B Update
February 25, 2014


Overnight, It wasn’t until 20 years ago, after I wrote an article entitled “Who Will Feed China?”, that I began to fully appreciate what a sensitive political issue Since 2006, China’s grain use has been climbing by 17 million tons per year. (See data.) For perspective, this compares with Australia’s annual wheat harvest of 24 million tons. With Graph on Net Imports of Grain by China, 1960-2013

In 2013, the world consumed an estimated 107 million tons of pork—half of which was eaten in China. China’s 1.4 billion people now consume six times as much pork as the China’s overall meat intake per person still totals only 120 pounds per year, scarcely half the 235 pounds in the Where will this grain come from? Farmers in China are losing irrigation The 2013 purchase by a Chinese conglomerate of the American firm Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pig-growing and pork-processing company, was really a pork security move. So, too, is China’s deal with Ukraine to provide $3 billion in loans in exchange for corn, as well as negotiations with Ukrainian companies for access to land. Such moves by China exemplify the new geopolitics of food China is not alone in the scramble for food. An estimated 2 billion people in other countries are also moving up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products. The combination of population growth, rising affluence, and the conversion of one third of the U.S. grain harvest into ethanol to fuel cars is expanding the world demand for grain by a record 43 million tons per year, double the annual growth of a decade ago.

The world’s As China imports increasing The world is transitioning from an era of abundance to one dominated by # # #


Lester R. Brown is president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Breaking New Ground: A Personal History andFull Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. Check out our supporting slideshow for additional data. More resources are available at www.earth-policy.org.

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