Big rise in Chinese grain imports might be good for Britain
By Boyd Champness
BRITISH farmers could benefit from a near threefold increase in Chinese grain imports over the next seven years.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference this week, Jikun Huang, director of the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, said increased demand for grain-fed meat will drive imports up from 9m tonnes to 24m tonnes by 2005.
But this would then stabilise at between 25m and 27m tonnes. And the historical drive to become almost self-sufficient in food means China will never become a dumping ground for the worlds wheat, despite having to feed one-fifth of the worlds population, with only 7% of the planets arable land.
"China will neither empty the world grain markets nor become a major grain exporter," he stressed. Mr Huang forecasted that total grain consumption will rise annually by 1.47% in the mid-1990s to 594m tonnes by 2020, most of the increase being met by improvements in local production.
Of the expected rise in demand, about 50% was attributed to population increases, while the rest was put down to increased wealth and a desire to eat more meat. Consumers are expected to double their red-meat consumption by 2020.
Mr Huang said China had a good record when it came to weathering natural disasters, eliminating the need for emergency imports.
High levels of grain imports over the next 20 years were only plausible if agricultural investment declined and the government did not stimulate food production. This was unlikely because the government has boosted funding for research and irrigation. *