Sat­is­fy­ing the grow­ing ap­petites of hu­mans and an­i­mals

Ris­ing de­mand in in­dus­trial and food in­dus­tries has led to in­creas­ing im­ports of corn, wheat, soy­beans

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By ZHONG NAN zhong­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s hunger for pro­tein food has pushed the coun­try to im­port more for­eign grain, en­sur­ing sup­plies for its boom­ing an­i­mal feed pro­cess­ing in­dus­try to pro­duce enough meat, eggs and milk to sat­isfy its grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. Led by the Chi­nese govern­ment’s self-suf­fi­ciency pol­icy for grain se­cu­rity, China’s grain im­ports, in­clud­ing corn, wheat and soy­beans, were limited be­fore China loos­ened its re­straints on for­eign grain in 2001.

How­ever, the sta­ble growth of China’s agri­cul­tural out­put and ris­ing na­tional in­comes have pro­vided di­ver­si­fied ac­cess to food with higher pro­tein and bet­ter taste. More­over, the coun­try has raised the quan­tity of its grain im­ports, es­pe­cially corn, wheat and soy­beans, over the past decade to sup­port the growth of the live­stock feed in­dus­try.

More than 120 mil­lion met­ric tons of corn and 10.7 mil­lion tons of wheat were eaten by Chi­nese live­stock in 2012, show­ing a 9.6 per­cent and 3.2 per­cent in­crease, re­spec­tively, from the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing-based China Feed In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion.

To meet the grow­ing de­mand, China pur­chased 5.12 mil­lion tons of wheat from the world mar­ket be­tween Jan­uary and Novem­ber in 2013, a 39 per­cent rise from the same pe­riod a year ear­lier. The na­tion also im­ported 2.44 mil­lion tons of corn dur­ing the same pe­riod, a 6 per­cent in­crease on a year-on-year ba­sis, ac­cord­ing to the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms.

“More than 80 per­cent of im­ported corn is be­ing used in the deep-pro­cess­ing in­dus­tries of an­i­mal feed, ethyl al­co­hol and starch in China now. In­dus­trial con­sump­tion now far ex­ceeds food con­sump­tion de­mand,” said Yu Bin, di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Macroe­co­nomic Re­search at the State Coun­cil De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­ter.

Food con­sump­tion is nor­mally a clear in­di­ca­tor of the health of an econ­omy and CHINA’S FEED PRO­DUC­TION OUT­PUT 2008-2013

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141 the size of its pop­u­la­tion. In China, meat con­sump­tion is ris­ing, and peo­ple are eat­ing a broader va­ri­ety. Daily food such as meat, fish, eggs and milk has be­come more so­phis­ti­cated, and peo­ple now look for more choices for healthy and con­ve­nient food.

“In terms of agri­cul­tural mod­ern­iza­tion, China is pro­ceed­ing in an up­ward tra­jec­tory, es­pe­cially in the meat pro­duc­tion chain. Meat prod­ucts us­ing pork, chicken and beef are be­ing pro­duced in­creas­ingly us­ing mod­ern meth­ods. Fewer an­i­mals are be­ing fed in the back­yard, and more are in­cluded in a mod­ern feed­ing sys­tem,” said Ding Lixin, a re­searcher at the Chi­nese Academy of Agri­cul­tural Sciences in Bei­jing.

The China Feed In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion said Chi­nese mills pro­duced 136 mil­lion tons of feed in the first three quar­ters of 2013, down 8.7 per­cent on a year-on-year ba­sis, mainly caused by a short­age of grain sup­plies in Zhe­jiang, Shan­dong and Jiangsu prov­inces, and a de­clin­ing mar­ket de­mand for meat from the ca­ter­ing in­dus­try, which has been restricted by the na­tional govern­ment’s na­tion­wide cam­paign to im­ple­ment the “eight-point” rules to stop of­fi­cials din­ing in restau­rants us­ing pub­lic funds.

Be­cause pork is the sta­ple meat for the Chi­nese, swine feed pro­duc­tion reached 7.84 mil­lion tons be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber of 2013, a 9.3 per­cent raise from the same pe­riod a year ear­lier.

Al­though the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture re­ported that China’s grain out­put reached 601.94 mil­lion tons in 2013, a record high and the 10th con­sec­u­tive year of in­creased grain har­vests, Ding said the na­tion’s de­mand growth should be taken into se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion un­der the changes in its agri­cul­tural sec­tor, which is al­ready strug­gling with lim­its on farm­land acreage and wa­ter sup­plies.

China ex­ported 8.74 mil­lion tons of an­i­mal feed to the world mar­ket in 2012, up 6 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year. The feed was sold to a num­ber of coun­tries, in­clud­ing Mon­go­lia, Ukraine, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter of China Agri­cul­ture for Trade and Econ­omy at the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture.

Un­der such cir­cum­stances, the China Na­tional Grain and Oils In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter es­ti­mated China’s grain de­mand will ex­ceed 720 mil­lion tons by 2020. A gap be­tween do­mes­tic sup­ply and de­mand for ma­jor agri­cul­tural prod­ucts is widen­ing, which might cut the na­tion’s meat pro­duc­tion out­put in the fu­ture.

Wang Kai, a pro­fes­sor at Nan­jing Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity in Jiangsu prov­ince, said feed pro­duc­tion is an indis­pens­able link to con­nect many agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries, such as the plant­ing, live­stock — in­clud­ing breed­ing — and fish farm­ing sec­tors. Con­se­quently, the govern­ment must en­sure it can gain ad­e­quate sup­plies to pre­vent an in­fla­tion in prices of these grains caused by un­pre­dicted short­ages in preser­va­tion, spec­u­la­tion and un­fa­vor­able weather con­di­tions.

“From the short-term per­spec­tive, im­port­ing corn, soy­beans and wheat from the US, Brazil, Ar­gentina and Ukraine is a prac­ti­cal way to sta­bi­lize the do­mes­tic price of grain and bal­ance de­mand and sup­ply,” Wang said.

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