China’s grain harvest of 546.4 million tons this year is its largest on record. What’s more, the government tells us, it’s the seventh straight annual rise, which is also an expression of China’s determination, repeated in countless policy pronouncements, to make its farms feed 95% of the nation’s needs.
Jaw-dropping as this new record is, however, it also invites a fair bit of chin scratching.
The sustainability, or not, of China’s grain output matters because a shift in just a few percentage points in the country’s grain demand or output means millions of tons of shipments diverted from other parts of the world. The U.S. this year provided for 97% of China’s corn imports. Australian officials are keen to ratchet up their share of China’s wheat sector. Grain suppliers in Argentina are working hard to open the Chinese market to their farmers.
The problem with China’s recent grain figure is that defies two laws:
The first is the law of gravity. The most populous nation in the world, which meets its 95% self-sufficiency target on 7% of the world’s arable land, hasn’t had a streak of success in grain harvests this consistent since available records show in 1978. China has typically enjoyed two – at most three – bumper grain harvests in a row before nature conspires to drag the numbers back down to earth. But this year, as with every year since 2003, China says it’s been bumper to bumper harvests.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal