From the Inter Press Service, writer Mitch Moxley explores the unique challenges in food production that face China. In addition, Moxley says that China's food security lends to stability for the country's leadership.
Since 1997, China has lost some 8.2 million hectares (20.2 million acres) of arable land to urbanization, industrialization, re-forestation and damage caused by natural disasters. Thirty-seven percent of China’s territory suffers from land degradation and the country’s per capita available land is 40 percent of the world average.
"China has made remarkable economic and social progress over the past three decades, lifting several hundred million out of poverty, and food security has benefited significantly from this overall progress," said Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, when he visited China in December.
"However, the shrinking of arable land and the massive land degradation threatens the ability of the country to maintain current levels of agricultural production, while the widening gap between rural and urban is an important challenge to the right to food of the Chinese population."
The right to food requires people to have incomes that allow them to purchase food, and that food systems be sustainable enough that satisfying current demands does not jeopardize future needs.
"It’s obvious that these two conditions are facing important challenges today," De Schutter said.
Recent food price increases may be a sign of things to come, the UN Rapporteur added, urging China to make the shift to more sustainable types of farming. Without mitigating actions, including a shift to low carbon agriculture, climate change will cause agricultural productivity to drop by five to ten percent by 2030.
In 2010, China recorded its seventh consecutive record grain harvest with production of 546 million tons, according to state media reports. The government has said current grain stocks exceed 200 million tons and that grain self-sufficiency has stood at 95 percent for the last decade.