“Ambitious China`s Food Security Plan to Deal with Soil, Land, and Water Menace”

“Ambitious China`s Food Security Plan to Deal with Soil, Land, and Water Menace”

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details of “Ambitious China`s Food Security Plan to Deal with Soil, Land, and Water Menace”. This topic is relevant in the “Economics” section of the UPSC- CSE Exam.


Why in the news

China has developed plan to feed nearly 20% of the global population with less than 9% of its arable land and 6% of its water resources. China targeted 92% self-sufficiency in staple grains and beans by 2033, up from 84% during 2021-2023, as food security has long been a priority for China because has a painful history of famine.


What is Food Security?

Food security refers to a condition where every person has reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Food security also includes resilience to potential disruptions in food supply caused by various risk factors such as droughts, floods, economic instability, or conflicts.


Reasons why China has planned to become Self-sufficient :


  • China is the world’s biggest agriculture importer, especially in soybeans, meat, and grains.
  • Reducing the influx of imports could negatively impact producers spanning from the United States to Brazil and Indonesia. These producers have significantly ramped up their capacities to cater to the needs of China’s vast population of 1.4 billion individuals, which represents the world’s largest consumer market for commodities such as soybeans, meat, and grains.
  • With limited arable land, soil quality and water are degraded.
  • In China, the average farm size stands at 0.65 hectares, a stark contrast to the significantly larger scales seen in the U.S. at 187 hectares and Germany at 60 hectares. China is in the process of transitioning towards consolidating its fragmented farming operations.
  • The imperative to reduce reliance on imports intensified following supply chain disruptions experienced by the national conflict between Russia and Ukraine. and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The escalation of trade tensions with the United States, China’s second-largest agricultural supplier after Brazil, coupled with climate-related challenges like the significant rainfall last year that adversely affected China’s wheat harvest, have further compounded the existing challenges.


Challenges to become self-sufficient in food security:


  • Limited arable land: China has only 7% of the world’s arable land to feed 20% of the global population. This land scarcity makes it difficult to significantly boost domestic food production.
  • Declining food self-sufficiency rate: China’s food self-sufficiency rate has fallen from 93.6% in 2000 to 65.8% in 2020, and is expected to further decline to 58.8% by 2030. This widening gap between domestic production and consumption requires increasing reliance on imports.
  • Low agricultural productivity: China lags behind major food exporters like the US, Canada and Australia in terms of crop yields and production efficiency. For example, the average cost of soybean production in China is 1.3 times higher than the US, while yields are less than 60% of US levels.
  • Degradation of farmland: Around 30% of China’s farmland suffers from soil erosion, while an additional 40% is at risk of desertification. Extreme Climatic events like floods, droughts and heatwaves have also led to significant crop losses in recent years.
  • Rapid urbanisation and loss of arable land: The conversion of farmland to urban and industrial uses has accelerated, with 24.72% of cropland loss occurring in major grain-producing regions over the past three decades. This threatens the sustainability of domestic food production.
  • Structural imbalances: China’s self-sufficiency policy has focused more on boosting grain output rather than meeting evolving dietary preferences for higher-value foods like meat and dairy. This has led to widening imbalances between domestic production and consumer demand.
  • Environmental unsustainability: Intensive farming practices relying heavily on chemical inputs have enabled China to maximise grain production on limited land. 
  • Expansion in production faces constraints stemming from limited arable land, small-scale production, and shortages in both skilled farmers and advanced agricultural technology.
  • According to the Soil  Survey conducted in 2014, it was revealed that 40% of China’s arable land suffered from degradation caused by excessive chemical usage and contamination by heavy metals.
  • Fragmented farmland: A significant challenge lies in China’s prevalence of small-scale farms, typically managed by elderly owners who may lack the financial means or the expertise to utilise modern machinery like drone sprayers, advanced seed varieties for enhanced productivity, and new technological innovations such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence.

Government initiative to become more self-sufficient in food production by 2033:


  • Increasing grain self-sufficiency: China aims to grow 90% of its grain, including rice, wheat, corn, and soybeans, by 2032. This involves raising the self-sufficiency ratio of oil crops like soybeans from 32% in 2023 to 43.8% by 2033. Increasing grain production by a minimum of 50 million tons by the year 2030. This effort underscores a focus on enhancing agricultural land, along with substantial investments in seed technology to bolster both crop yields and quality.
  • Reducing grain imports: China plans to reduce annual grain imports from 146.9 million metric tons in 2022 to 122 million metric tons by 2032. This will help consolidate the foundation of grain security.
  • Boosting domestic soybean production: China is focusing on increasing domestic soybean production to reduce reliance on imports, which currently account for over 60% of global soybean trade. This includes bringing American agricultural expertise to Chinese farmers.
  • Improving crop yields: China is working to increase crop yields through technological breakthroughs and practical applications on farmland. However, low agricultural productivity compared to major exporters like the US remains a challenge.
  • Protecting arable land: The government has pledged to ensure China has at least 120 million hectares of arable land[2]. A draft law aims to restrict the conversion of farmland to other uses. However, encroachment and conversion of arable land for development continue to be an issue.
  • Increasing rice exports: China plans to increase rice exports by 24% over the next decade. This diversification of export markets could impact major rice exporters like Thailand.
  • Diversifying import sources: China is seeking to reduce reliance on the US and Ukraine for corn imports by sourcing from more diverse suppliers like Brazil and South Africa. Imports accounted for 7.4% of China’s corn consumption in 2022.
  • Transformation of land for cultivation purposes: With initiatives focused on transforming sandy terrain into arable soil and cultivating crops tolerant to saline conditions, China seeks to expand its agricultural land. However, industry experts caution that this strategy will require substantial time and investment in fertilisers, irrigation systems, and biotechnology.
  • Consolidation of fragmented land:  The average farm size is 0.65 hectares, in stark contrast to the significantly larger scales seen in the U.S. at 187 hectares and Germany at 60 hectares. China is in the process of gradually consolidating its fragmented farms.


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Prelims based Question:


  1. As Global Warming leads to Climate Change, How does it affect the environment:
  1. Reduce soil fertility
  2. Erratic rainfall
  3. Food Insecurity
  4. Loss of Biodiversity

Which of the following statement/s is/are correct?

  1. 1,2 and 4 Only
  2. 1,2 and 3 Only
  3. 2,3 and 4 Only
  4. All of the above.


Answer: D


Mains based Questions:


  1. Critically analyse. How food security can be ensured when the world has been facing Climate Change.


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