China is the most populous country in the world. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The population of this country is also growing at a steady rate. As a result, the demand for food in the country is growing with time. One of the reasons why the demand for food in China grows with time is the steady growth in the economy. As people’s purchasing power in the country increases, their eating habits change thus causing them to demand different varieties of food. Food security is important to a country’s growth and sustainability. Food security can be defined as the availability of food and people’s access to it.
A country whose population has access to adequate food is considered to enjoy a high level of food security. On the other hand, if in a particular country people cannot access food when they need it, then it is considered to have a dangerous food security situation (Zhou, 2010). China has for a long period of time been able to meet its demand for food from domestic production. This has been in line with the country’s grain self-sufficiency policy. The implementation of grain self-sufficiency policy has encountered serious challenges in the recent past. The government therefore decided to ditch the policy for the following reasons:
This memo has been addressed to Chinese public to encourage them to support the government’s decision to ditch the grain self-sufficiency policy.
It is advisable for the Chinese public to support the government’s decision to ditch the grain self-sufficiency policy. The reasons for the support of the government decision are discussed as follows:
Equitable economic development can be achieved in China through promoting other industries improving trade with other countries and engaging in bilateral trade. Doing away with grain self-sufficiency policy will create a supportive environment for the Chinese government to take these three important strategic actions. They are discussed as follows:
Promoting Other Industries in China
In China, the policy on food security requires 95% of the country’s demand for grain to be met by local production. Attaining this target may have adverse effects on other industries within the country. For instance, the production of bio fuel would suffer because the same limited arable land is to be used for grain as well as production of bio fuel. Insisting on the grain self-sufficiency policy would for the government to concentrate on agriculture thus neglecting other industries like energy production. Chinese public is therefore advised to support the government’s decision to ditch policy.
It is also important to note that importing grains from other countries would not pose a serious security problem to the country (Lv, 2013). If this were the case, then Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia would also be producing their own grains for fear of losing their sovereignty if they import from other countries. These three countries meet a large percentage of their demand for grains from food commodity imports. South Korea and Japan for instance import 73% of the grains which they consume. 87% per cent of grain consumed by South Korea is imported the (Economist, 2013).
Improve Trade with Other Countries
According to the Economist (2013) self-reliance is a notion which is associated with North Korea and not countries like China. In contract with Korea, China is a country with an open external trade policy. It is therefore possible for China to engage in trade with other countries. Importing food from other countries would create good trade relations between China and other countries thus compelling them to open up their markets to Chinese exports. This would lead to the growth of Chinese industries.
Engaging In Bilateral Trade
Today, China engages in bilateral trade with many countries across the globe through which it is able to gain food commodities (Zhou, 2010). Since China’s opening up to the global market in the late 1980s, there has been a considerable increase in the level of business between China and the rest of the world. As a result of this trade, the country has been able to raise adequate foreign exchange which has then been used to purchase food commodities. It is therefore important for China continue to important food commodities from other countries across the globe because it has adequate foreign exchange to fund these transactions. Since the country has adequate revenue to import food, the grain self-sufficiency is irrelevant and hence the Chinese public should support the government’s decision to ditch the policy.
It Is Economical To Import Food Products
Since Chinese exports have been increasing with time, it is now more economical to import food than to produce locally. Indeed, in 1961, China would have required 25% of its total export revenues to import grain that would be sufficient to cover up the shortfall. Today, China needs only 2% of its export revenue to import sufficient grain that would meet its domestic demand. Consequently, as the country’s exports increase, the cost importing food is falling gradually. China can therefore attain satisfactory food security without maintaining the grain self-sufficiency policy. Hence, it is advisable for the Chinese public to support the government’s decision to ditch the policy.
Importing Would Not Compromise China’s Sovereignty
China imports less of food communities than other countries like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. The table below shows the value of imported grains expressed as a percentage of the total grains consumed within Japan, South Korean, Saudi Arabia and China in 2012.
Percentage of grains imported by the four countries
The above table indicates that China is the country which imported the least amount of grains in 2012. This means that the Chinese population mainly consumes its grains produced within the country. The country is therefore considered to have a higher level of self-reliance in respect to the supply of food as compared to Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. The fact that the total amount of imports consumed by the country account for only 12% per cent of grains consumed in China means that the country’s supply of grain is high and therefore able to sustain its demand. Consequently, the country’s sovereignty would not be affected in case some its suppliers decide to stop supplying grains for political reasons. It is possible for the remaining 12% to be sourced from other suppliers. This can also be illustrates as shown in the chart below:
Percentage of Grains Imported
Opening China’s agricultural sector
The implementation of the grain self-sufficiency policy has for a long time prevented the development of the country’s agricultural sector. The distribution of agricultural products in China has been under the control of the government. Traders could not freely engage in agricultural businesses within this economy. Farmers could not therefore earn a satisfactory return from their agricultural engagements (Gustafsson and Yue, 2012). The situation is particularly worse for small scale farmers who may not have adequate factor inputs to produce large amounts of produce. The grain self-sufficient policy is therefore implemented within this country regardless of the impact it may have on the welfare of the people, the quality of the environment and the country’s economic growth and development. Setting aside the grain self-sufficiency policy has therefore had positive impacts on the economy. This calls for the Chinese public to support the government’s decision to ditch the policy.
Preserving Natural Resources
Ditching the grain self-sufficiency policy would preserve China’s natural resources because increased local food production had had a negative impact on the environment, led to soil degradation and increased the cost of preserving the environment. Therefore ditching this policy would enable the government to meet its local grain demand at a lower environmental cost.
The policy has had negative impact on the environment
China’s grain self-sufficiency policy creates serious sustainability issues in the Chinese social, economic and ecological environment. Economically, feeding the country using domestically produced puts a lot pressure on the little arable land available in the country. It may be difficult to sustain the grain self-sufficiency policy because land which could be used for cultivating is increasingly being converted into construction land (OECD, 2013). It is also important to note that other industrial activities are also taking up most of the land that could have been used for agricultural purposes. This has increased pressure on the land that is available for cultivation thus making it difficult for farmers to employ effective farming methods on such land.
In future, if grain productivity has to be increased, then farmers would be required to use more inputs because the size of land available for this economic activity is falling with time. Increased use of inputs may have a negative impact on the productivity due to potential soil degradation and water pollution (Bulte and Ruben, 2007). In the long run, there would be a reduction in the country’s agricultural productivity which would become a setback to its achievement of the grain self-sufficiency policy. It is therefore worthwhile to argue that the future of China’s grain self-sufficiency policy was oblique and that is why the government took necessary steps in setting it aside. The Chinese public is therefore advised to support the government’s decision.
Reducing Soil Degradation
In the pursuit of its grain self-sufficiency policy, China has continuously converted arable land into agricultural land (Shurtleff and Aoyagi, 2013). Since land conversion has been moving gradually towards the northern part of the country, the entire natural environment within the country has suffered because the northern part of the country is has he problems of water scarcity. As a result of this, increased agricultural activities in this part of the country have had a negative impact on the quality of natural resources. It was for this reason that the government decided to come up with land restoration programs. This however did not bear much fruits because most of the land restored was not very productive. Consequently, the country’s agricultural productivity continued to suffer setbacks.
China would only maintain its grain self-sufficiency policy if its government would choose to sacrifice important economic activities. These include construction activities, as well as the development of industries. Alternatively the government could choose to give up its grain self-sufficiency policy in favor of more bilateral trade with other countries across the globe. This would lead to an increase in the country’s productivity in order to maintaining a sustainable environment. This is the case because little land would be devoted to agricultural activities while the rest would be used to pursue other economic activities which seek to increase the country’s exports.
Meeting the country’s grain demand at a lower environmental cost
One of the legitimate criticisms leveled against grain self-sufficiency policy in China is the fact that the policy ignores regional comparative advantages. The country ends producing grains a very high cost instead of choosing to purchase the same from other countries which offer the same products at lower prices. Countries like Brazil and Canada have adequate arable land which can be used to produce grains. The production of grains like soy beans and wheat in such countries can be achieved at a very low price. When these countries bring their products to the market, they are able to sell them at relatively low price.
China would incur less cost importing such grains than producing them. Unfortunately, the country’s grain self-sufficiency policy does not allow for the importation of the grains. Instead, the country is required to manufacturer its grains and make sure that its demand for grain is met by domestic production. The problem associated with this decision is that grains are produced at a very high cost with very high levels of inefficiencies (Chen and Duncan, 2008). This costs the country large amounts of resources that could otherwise have been used to serve other very important purposes within the organization. The Chinese government’s insistence on a grain self-sufficiency policy is therefore quite detrimental to the overall welfare of people within China.
China has been able to sufficiently cater for grain demand from its domestic production. The Chinese government has for a long time believed in maintaining a grain self-sufficiency policy with the main objective of ensuring that it sovereignty is not compromised. Government believed that if a large percentage of grain consumed within the country is imported, its enemies could use the supply of food as weapon in case of a political conflict. This argument may not be worthwhile considering that countries like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia import a large amount of food components and yet they do not have any such fears. The grain sufficiency policy also has had several drawbacks which negatively affected China in. Economically, this policy put pressure on the available arable land within the country thus forcing the government to sacrifice other important economic activities like construction and energy production. Secondly, increased use of arable land led to soil degradation thus negatively affecting the quality of the environment. In conclusion, the grain self-sufficiency policy within China has been detrimental to the country economically, socially and ecologically. It is therefore, advisable for the Chinese public to support the government’s decision to ditch the policy.
The Economist (2013) Feeding 1.36 billion people: As China globalizes, some still think it should be self-sufficient in food [online] Accessed April 8, 2014 http://www.economist.com/news/china/21588436-china-globalises-some-still-think-it-should-be-self-sufficient-food-daily-bread
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