JUN 05, 2015 06:55 AM PDT

The Numbers Matter in China's Agriculture System

In China, it's about the numbers. Not math skills, but just sheer numbers. Most recent figures put the country's population at 1.35 billion people. The estimated world population is 7 billion, so a quick crunch of those figures means that China contains just fewer than 20% of the entire world's population. No problem right? It's a big place, they can provide for their citizens. Well, not exactly.
Farming in China has many inefficiencies that could create food shortages
The geography in China is varied, and the numbers matter in terms of land mass as well. While it is the third largest country in the world by area, not much of its land is suitable for farming. Considering it accounts for almost one fifth of the world's population, it actually contains only one tenth of the globe's agricultural land. Simply put, they cannot grow enough food to adequately feed everyone.

The problem is also about closely held historical beliefs. China has a strong connection to their origins as an agricultural society. Government leaders believe that the country should honor those roots and be a nation of self-sufficient producers. They have a strong manufacturing economy, they're entering into the fields of technology, space exploration and finance and the country has become a strong force in world politics. So, what about the food?

Well, part of the problem is not about the amount of food, but rather the efficiency of how it's produced. Farm subsidies are given to farmers for grains that could easily be imported from other countries. While some world markets are volatile and China is hesitant to be involved in unpredictable futures, the money spent on the government subsidies is actually more than what it would cost to buy those same grains from other parts of the world.

Add to this the fact that what little land China does have to grow food is not suited to grain production so harsh chemical fertilizers are needed. China's environmental record is problematic at best with air pollution and the pesticides and other substances used in farming run off into underground aquifers, contaminating the drinking water supply.

Corruption is often a problem as well, when government farmers subsidized for one kind of high quality crop, grow crops of lesser quality. The government is paying the going rate for the higher priced foods, but then the produce stored in government repositories is actually of poor quality. Government subsidies are inherently difficult to monitor in countries all over the world, but while the global trend is toward reducing subsidies, figures quoted in The Economist from the Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development demonstrate that subsidies for Chinese farmers doubled in the five years between 2007 and 2012, topping out at about 165 billion dollars total.

It's an ever-enlarging equation and the numbers will only continue to rise. At some point the imbalance will force the agricultural system to correct itself, perhaps growing different plants or finally importing healthier and cheaper food. Inefficiency is one crop China can no longer afford to cultivate.


Sources: YouTube, The Economist
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 16, 2019
Earth & The Environment
SEP 16, 2019
Frankincense-Producing Trees are in Peril
Frankincense has been cherished for thousands of years, utilized in cultural and religious ceremonies as well as cooking and creating aromatics. Frankincen...
SEP 16, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 16, 2019
The Gene that Helps Plants Fight Climate Change
Large underground networks of roots forage the earth for nutrients and water. Although we have been familiar with this process for a long time, the precise...
SEP 16, 2019
Cardiology
SEP 16, 2019
Those With Views Of Nature From Their Homes, Healthier
The benefits of exposing yourself to nature are well documented. Our proximity to nature influences everything from mental-health to air quality. Studies h...
SEP 16, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 16, 2019
How Wolves Evolved into Dogs
Wolves and dogs share 99.9% of their DNA. Technically still the same species, they can also produce healthy offspring. But having said that, there’s ...
SEP 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 16, 2019
Gene Linked To Cannabis Abuse
Research shows that there may be a specific gene associated with a higher risk of cannabis abuse. The same gene is responsible for the so-called nicotine r...
SEP 16, 2019
Earth & The Environment
SEP 16, 2019
"The Blob" is Back
Five years ago, a phenomenon dubbed “the blob” caused turmoil along the West Coast of the Pacific Ocean. No, it wasn’t an invader from sp...
Loading Comments...