CHINA –  A new food security law that mandates central and provincial governments in China to incorporate food security into their economic and development plans took effect on June 1, 2024. 

The law aims to push for “absolute self-sufficiency” in staple grains, reflecting China’s strategic shift towards reducing its dependency on international food markets.

The new law provides a robust legal framework for the existing guidance issued by the Communist Party, compelling local governments and the agricultural sector to enhance food production. 

While the law sets a direction, Reuters reports that it lacks detailed implementation guidelines. Key provisions include protecting farmland from non-agricultural uses, conserving germplasm resources, and preventing food wastage.

China, the world’s largest agricultural importer and home to 1.4 billion people has prioritized reducing its reliance on overseas suppliers. 

Although China has only 10% of the world’s arable land, it produces one-fourth of the world’s grain and feeds one-fifth of the global population. 

The urgency behind this law, passed just six months after its first reading, underscores China’s critical challenges, including limited arable land, water shortages, labor constraints, and a need for advanced agricultural technologies.

The Communist Party will spearhead the national food security strategy, emphasizing a “China first” approach. 

This strategy involves moderate imports, significant advancements in agricultural science and technology, and the principle of “storing grain in the ground” to ensure basic and absolute self-sufficiency in cereal and staple grains. 

The law also calls for creating a national grain emergency plan and a comprehensive food security monitoring system.

China has broadened the definition of “coarse grains” to include millets and oats alongside sorghum, barley, buckwheat, mung beans, and potatoes. This change aims to diversify the grain supply and improve food security. 

The law also mentions strengthening international food security cooperation and leveraging international grain trade, though specifics are not provided.

The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) outlined ambitious targets for grain and meat production, aiming for at least 650 million tonnes of grain and 89 million tonnes of meat annually. The plan prioritizes rural poverty eradication, food security, and seed development.

The world’s largest wheat producer, China faces a significant consumption gap. The US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) projects China’s wheat harvest at 138 million tonnes for the marketing year 2024-25, with consumption at 146.5 million tonnes. 

Corn production is expected to reach 296 million tonnes, against a consumption of 318 million tonnes. Additionally, soybean imports are forecasted at 103 million tonnes, with domestic production at just 19.6 million tonnes.

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