Feeding the Five Thousand
A short but insightful look at China's rural economy. It's easy to be blinded by the figures on China's booming export economy, but this correspondent notes that with the changing demography of China the mix of different crops is changing. Pork consumption is on the rise, requiring more grain for fodder: likewise, vegetables are replacing wheat and other staples.
There's a best case and a worst case scenario to this.
In the best case, China's demand for food will fuel agricultural growth around the world as it increasingly turns to imports: this in turn could balance the overall trade deficit and help other countries develop. A rising tide lifts all boats.
On the other hand, accelerating prices in China and the consequent dangers of economically-induced famine comme Amartya Sen could be the final triggers for mass social unrest among the disenfranchised poor. All it would take would be an ecological disaster (perhaps influenced by unchecked environmental degradation) and China would implode just as it has done from time to time over the centuries.
Already, the country that discovered the soya bean has to import most of its needs.
And other crops will follow.
The days of food self-sufficiency in China are numbered.
So, like the rest of us, China will turn to Australia, Africa and South America to fill its belly.
It is small wonder that food prices are climbing everywhere, not just here in China.