(TibetanReview.net, Apr13’22) – Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly vowed: “The Chinese people’s rice bowl must be firmly held in their own hands.” And yet the country’s food grain imports have continued to balloon over the years, and constituted about a quarter of its domestic production in 2021, reported the scmp.com Apr 11. So, besides being unable to feed itself without imports, it appears to anticipate the global food grain shortage to worsen considerably in the coming years.
China’s amassing of grain stockpiles has sparked allegations by some Western critics who say such a mentality has contributed to rising food prices globally amid the prolonged pandemic and now the war between two of the world’s biggest grain suppliers – Russia and Ukraine, the report noted.
Many analysts are said to point to China’s grim history of hunger and poverty – which toppled dynasties – to explain the unprecedented emphasis Beijing has been placing on food security, with some calling it a prudent choice in the face of extreme weather, shipping disruptions, sanctions and conflicts that has globe-spanning implications.
Still, what is seen as hoarding by China has caused food grain shortages and inflation across the world, especially in poor countries.
In 2004, China reported its first agricultural deficit of US$4.6 billion. That deficit ballooned to US$94.8 billion in 2020 and a record high of US$133.5 billion last year.
Its total imports of grain also reached a new high of 165 million metric tonnes in 2021, including 9.7 million in wheat, 4.47 million in rice and 96.5 million in soybeans. The total is equivalent to about a quarter of its domestic output, the report noted.
And the import policy has paid off. The report cited the National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration as saying in February that the national grain inventory was at a high level from a historical perspective, and that it had provided a solid foundation for supplies and stable prices.
“The existing inventory [of wheat and rice] is sufficient to meet the demand. There is even a surplus that can be used for other consumption,” Qin Yuyun, research head at the administration, has said at a recent media briefing.
While China has not provided official figures of its stockpiles, the US Department of Agriculture was stated to have estimated in its March report that the country’s stock of wheat was expected to be 142 million tonnes at the end of 2021-22 market year – accounting for about 50.5% of the world total, and up from 45.5% in the 2017-18 market year.
China has insisted that it is not hoarding food grains and blamed the inflation on excess money-printing by much of the world to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is no shortage of food at the global level. What it really lacks is peace and a stable macroeconomic foundation,” Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst with Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Ltd, has said.
And Li Guoxiang, a fellow at the rural development institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has insisted, “China has no grain surplus. The domestic supply and demand are tight.”