Economists have found an interesting trend in China’s continuous trading of food grains and foods with several countries around the world. Most deals involve dealing with large quantities of food. It also made deals with enemies, reflecting that the country is probably experiencing a major food crisis.
Food inflation in China rose 13.2% in July 2020. Prices for most of the food that the average Chinese consume every day has skyrocketed, from grains to meat products. The US Census Bureau found that the price of pork, the most commonly consumed meat, rose 86 percent.
China is aggressively importing food from all over the world. The precarious situation can be understood from the fact that the state procures almost all major food products.
According to China’s customs office, grain imports also increased 22.7% in the first half of this year, bringing food imports to 74.5 million tons. China has been the largest soybean producer in the past few years, but this year it plans to import 40 million tons from its rival, the United States.
According to import data, China’s wheat imports in June of this year hit the highest in seven years. In June 2020, 910,000 tons of wheat were imported, an increase of 197% year-on-year. It also imported 880,000 tons of corn, 680,000 tons of sorghum and 140,000 tons of sugar.
The yield was so low that China’s national grain storage system was able to purchase 45 million tonnes of wheat in June-July, a 17.2% decrease from last year. Observers believe that in addition to low yields, farmers are storing food instead of storing it in the government because of fear of a food crisis, and the Chinese government seems to be pressing people to store food in the government. It allows the state to predict that the food crisis is not too serious.
Low yields have also been combined with intense flooding in the Three Gorges and Yangtze Basin, washing thousands of acres of fertile land with solid crops. The flood has affected the lives of 54.8 million people and caused an economic loss of $20.8 billion.
Grasshopper swarm attacks and African swine flu fever have also proven fatal to the country’s agricultural sector. The latter is said to have killed most of the pig population and caused a crisis in meat production.
The disaster came at a time when the proportion of the country’s cultivated land was rapidly decreasing. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, China’s arable land declined for four consecutive years in 2017, reaching 60,900 hectares compared to the previous year.
To meet the deficit between food consumption and food production, China has begun to buy and lease fertile land and fields in many African, South American and ASEAN countries, including Djibouti, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Chile, Argentina, Cambodia and Laos. China has spent about $94 billion to buy farmland abroad. That number seems to have increased over the past few years.
However, experts believe China is also watching the fertile regions of Pakistan, an all-weather ally. In addition to using Balochistan’s natural resources, China now plans to use Sindh as a hub for growing food crops. Sindh is a new alternative, as China already has some control over territories such as GB, PoJK, Balochistan and given the region’s fertile terrain, China cannot be used to grow crops. Another major advantage of controlling crops and growing crops in Sindh is the cost of economic transportation of agricultural products to China. Transportation from African or South American countries is expensive and time consuming.
For institutional sanctions on China’s use of Pakistani land, Pakistan recently signed an agricultural cooperation agreement with Pakistan, and China now owns thousands of acres of Pakistani land for a’demonstration project’ in the agricultural sector.
The Chinese president seems to be increasingly concerned about the upcoming food crisis in China. After a campaign to stop food waste, media censorship of food-related videos, and urging Chinese people not to waste food, Xi Jinping is seeking ideas from experts to cope with the crisis. In a recent seminar with some of the best scientists and businessmen, Jinping discussed possible ways and sought ideas to reduce foreign reliance on food grains in particular. The President of China highlights the importance of agriculture in his speeches on several visits to farming that dominates China.
The decline in consumption for anxiety caused by the epidemic forced citizens to limit consumption, leading to a recession. The market is empty and people are not willing to consume. From September 8 to October 8, the Ministry of Commerce of China created a campaign titled’Chinese Consumption Promotion Month’ to encourage consumption by Chinese citizens. To further increase consumption, the Chinese government began issuing coupons to encourage consumers to consume from March 2020. According to Alipay data, local governments in more than 100 cities have issued digital coupons to increase consumption.
From aggressive imports and foreign land transactions to large-scale campaigns against food waste and content censorship, China is making every possible effort to tackle the upcoming crisis. Even if it fails miserably, it plans to cover up news from the rest of the world. According to reports in media around the world, the world is starting to know that China has not granted its citizens the food security qualifications they promised their citizens under the Chinese government’s’six guarantees’.
China’s aggressive actions against India, Taiwan, Japan and ASEAN countries are nothing but to divert attention from the Chinese public to the economic crisis.
Interestingly, China contradicted its own data on agriculture, claiming the economy is recovering despite the epidemic. However, experts believe that China is manipulating economic data for propaganda purposes, and it is too early to conclude that the Chinese economy is in a recovery phase.