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As China grows, so do food needs

Published Apr. 16, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News 

With 1.4 billion people and a growing middle class, the impact China has on world agriculture is steadily increasing.

Last month, OFBF State Trustee Daryl Knipp and Executive Vice President Jack Fisher joined the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Market Study Tour of the country to find out first-hand how China affects agriculture in the United States.

Trade between the United States and China is valued at $387 billion per year. U.S. agricultural exports to China equate to $12.4 billion per year.

Like the rest of the world, China’s economy has slowed, but is still growing quicker than most, largely due to its immense population.

The investment the Chinese government makes in its large population and its purchasing choices will determine the future of the country’s influence on U.S. agriculture.

“If China’s economy and income keeps increasing, history says food choices change,” Knipp said, noting that an increase in income usually equates to an increasingly expensive diet, including proteins. Knipp said meat products, feed grains and soybean imports should continue to increase.

U.S. beef has had problems gaining full market access to China since the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the states but is an issue being worked on as increased demand continues to grow.

Two strong Chinese markets include swine and corn. The swine industry is six times larger than that in the United States, with each family traditionally owning at least
one pig. Pork accounts for two-thirds of Chinese meat consumption. Knipp said the country has been self-sufficient with its domestic corn supply but may need to import in the long term with its growing population.

“The biggest take-home (of the trip) was that the bulk of Chinese agriculture is in one to two acre farms,” Knipp said. “They don’t waste a square foot of land. It’s all in rows and planted. All of their land is used to produce something.”

But he said the Chinese will have a problem increasing their food production due to a lack of adequate water resources throughout the country.

Tour participants spent time in Beijing, Shanghai, Nantong, Guangzhou and Hong Kong visiting port facilities, aquaculture, hog, poultry and dairy farms, supermarkets and other retail outlets in addition to U.S. and China government entities.



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