The nation must strengthen its resilience to food crises

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Workers fill sacks of wheat in the courtyard of the Agricultural Commodities Marketing Committee (APMC) market on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, May 16, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

The world is facing the biggest food crisis since World War II. There is a growing risk of large-scale poverty and famine in the world’s least developed countries, which are highly dependent on food imports.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Global Report on Food Crises 2022, some 193 million people in 53 countries face a severe food crisis or suffer from food insecurity.

The current global food crisis is driven by multiple factors, such as geopolitical conflicts, agricultural trade protectionism, persistent inflation, COVID-19, extreme weather disasters, and the large-scale production and use of biofuels.

China’s grain self-sufficiency rate is high and it has large grain reserves of wheat and rice. The short-term impact of the international market on China is therefore relatively small.

But you also have to see that China, which represents about 20% of the world’s population, only has 7% of the world’s arable land. This means that its arable land per capita is low. What is also low is its level of agricultural mechanization. Therefore, China still depends on the international market for a number of types of agricultural products, such as soybeans, sugar and edible oilseeds.

In addition, China is heavily dependent on feed grain imports, and a sharp rise in international grain prices will lead to higher domestic meat prices.

China must therefore diversify its sources of agricultural imports in order to minimize the risk of blockage of import channels induced by geopolitical conflicts and economic crises. For example, about 85% of China’s soybean imports come from the United States and Brazil.

China also urgently needs to modernize its agriculture, improve its agricultural subsidy policies and increase the basic productivity of major grain crops. The country should increase its subsidies and increase the minimum national purchase prices for agricultural products that are highly dependent on imports.

In addition, a strong agricultural insurance system should be put in place to guide large-scale and mechanized production and improve land use efficiency. On this basis, risk prevention, risk warning and post-disaster reconstruction mechanisms should also be put in place and strengthened to reduce the risk of reduced cereal production caused by natural disasters.

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