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Who Will Feed China?

UGEC2210 Food and Hunger


Lester R. Brown’s assessment on China food supplies

2. Problems on China’s grain production
3. What’s wrong in Lester Brown’s Analysis?
4. Lessons from Lester Brown’s assessment

Who is Mr. Lester R. Brown?
“One of the world's most influential thinkers"
By Washington Post

“The guru of the environmental movement."
By Telegraph of Calcutta
Brown earned masters degrees in agricultural economics from the
University of Maryland and in public administration from Harvard.
In 1974, with support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, he founded the
Worldwatch Institute, the first research institute devoted to the analysis of
global environmental issues.
Brown has authored or coauthored 50 books
• Man, Land and Food
• World Without Borders
• Building a Sustainable Society
• Who Will Feed China?

Lester Brown’s Hypotheses

If countries become densely populated before they industrialize, they inevitably
suffer a heavy loss of cropland.


If industrialization is rapid, the loss of cropland quickly overrides the rise in land
productivity, leading to a decline in grain production.


The same industrialization also raised income, and with it the consumption of
livestock products and the demand for grain.
Ironically, the faster industrialization proceeds, the more rapidly the gap widens
between rising demand and falling production.

Experience of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan
Densely populated before industrialization
Shrinking grainland
• Japan: 52% reduction in 1955-1994
• South Korea: a loss of 46% since 1965
• Taiwan: a similar loss of 42% from 1962 to 1994

South Korea and Taiwan imported 66% and 76% of the grain they consumed respectively Three regions changed from self-sufficient to import up to 66-67% grains Japan . South Korea and Taiwan In 1994. Japan imported 72% of the grain it consumed. In 1994.Experience of Japan.

Who will feed China? . => China will import huge amount of grain from the rest of the world.Lester Brown’s Argument or Warning Similar situation happened in China • • • • • Densely populated before industrialization Rapid industrialization Loss of cropland quickly Raised income Water scarcity => China’s food supply will decline in the future.

0-2050 .The China Population Growth.

Its demographic growth is then expected to slow and its population to peak at 1.66 billion in 2045.Chinese Population.. after which it should start to decline slowly.5 billion – equal to the world’s population in 1900. . its population is projected to reach 1. By 2017. 1949-2000 (in millions) (projections to 2050) In 1982. china’s population reached 1 billion.

1998 .Population of Selected Chinese Provinces.

1996 Affected World Population . crude birth and death rates 1949 .Population growth.

it is projected to add 490 million more .Population Growth (Another half billion more 1990-2030) From 1950 to 1990. From 1990 to 2030. China added 571 million people.

.Chinese Demographics The population exploded after 1949. Calls for women to “breed for the motherland”. Population control was secondary. Mao Zedong saw numbers as a workforce and a way to fight the Soviet Union and the United States.

not rapidly enough. at most two. • Contributed to fertility decline but. again. Slogan “One is best. Family planning in early 1970s • Authorized age of marriage 25 for men and 23 for women. never a third”. Family planning in end of 1970s • Government began to promote the two-child family. .Chinese Demographics Demographic issues have been recognized in 1970s.

Consequence of “one child policy” • Imbalanced sex ratio • Psychological pressure • Aging of the population .Chinese Demographics One child policy • Launched in 1981 • Great variations in performance between urban and rural areas.

Percentage of Women Having More Than One Child. 1998 .

2000 .Population Pyramid of China.

78 1978 17.95 .Rapid Urbanization and Industrialization Underurbanization before 1978 Rapid urbanization in post-Mao period after 1978 Rapid increase in per capita income Various changes in people’s life and diet Year Share of urban population (%) 1951 11.92 2000 2010 36.09 49.


” Impact of Income on Food Habit .Moving Up the Food Chain With rapid economic growth. the food chain has been moved up dramatically. Ten years ago. A peasant said: • “My family eats meat maybe four or five times a week now. we never had meat.

Moving Up the Food Chain .

17 . Land and Water Input for Animal Output Figure 9.Grain feed.

Engel’s Law at Work: Yuan/Person Rural Households Share Yuan/Person Urban Households Share .

4% Reasons: .Shrinking Arable Land China: a mountainous country • Arable land: no more than 10% of total land One of the smallest arable per person in the world The grain area has dropped from 90. • An annual drop of 1.26 million hectares • The loss of rate of 1.7 million hectares in 1994.8 million hectares in 1990 to 85.

Decrease and Stock of Cultivated Land in China. 1988 .1995 .Increase.

Increase.1995 (in hectares) . Decrease and Net-Change of Cultivated Land in China by Province 1988 .

Change in Agricultural Land Use in PRD 720 km2 urban LU in 1988 2605 km2 urban LU in 1996 .

Acres of Arable Land per Person Source: World Bank 1 acre = 0.405 hectare .

1997-2008 2008 .Cultivated Land (000 ha).

China’s shrinking Arable Land (grainland per person) .

The benchmark would need to be much higher if an American-style meat-based diet were the global norm. Other experts argue that the minimum amount of land needed per capita is even greater. Smil argues that countries with less than 0. . phosphorus and other fertilizers.07 hectares of arable land per person cannot feed their populations sustainably without intensive use of synthetic nitrogen.Consequence … ? Prof.

irrigation expansion.Spreading Water Scarcity Another Threat! Water is a resource demanded by successful agriculture. rising affluence and industrialization. Water use has increased by population growth. Severe competition between urban and rural water supplies .

total 中国水量有多少? Per capita 中国:总量很大.人均很小 .

Uneven spatial and temporal distribution North of Yangtze. 65% of cultivated land. but 20% of water resource 60-70% of the rainfall occurs during summer .

Irrigation in Agriculture China has a long history of irrigation Dramatic increase in irrigated farmland Improving the conditions of agricultural production Increasing crop yields .

Large Dams in the world in 1998 .

Water Shortage of China’s Food Production Aggravating deficit of water in agriculture Incapable supply increment Water portioned to agriculture decreases annually. Change of Water Use in Agriculture of China .

.Anxious Situation of Water Use In Food Production Deficit increment • Change in average water level in 1995-2004 Increased: No Change: Decreased: 8% 17% 75% Water shortage and irrigation waste exist simultaneously • Low use ratio and efficiency • 65% of all the water used for irrigation is lost.

Raising Cropland Productivity Grain yield per hectare in China 1978-1996 .

output climbed in six years (78-84) from scarcely 200 million tons to 300 million tons. . Per capita grain production increased from roughly 200 kilograms per person in 1978 to nearly 300 kilograms in 1984.Raising Cropland Productivity After the agricultural reforms in 1978.

difficult to improve productivity Fertilizer use intensity (kg/ha) 1990-1994. expansion of irrigated area 1977-1984. rise even more slowly Increase in Grain Yield Per Hectare in China 4th highest in the world .High Grain Yield and the Difficulty of Further Increase 1950-1977. rural reforms and dramatic rise in the use of fertilizer 1984-1990.

Population growth (half billion more 1990-2030). Spreading water shortage (land under irrigation). Changing food consumption. Over-use of fertilizer? High grain yield in China and the difficulty of further increase. South Korea and Taiwan. China’s shrinking cropland (grainland per person). .Lester Brown’s Analysis Experience of Japan.

20% decline in 40 years.Lester Brown’s Conclusion Japan’s grain output declined by 1% a year after 1960.5% a year. 30% overall decline by 1990s. Assume China’s grain will decline 0. China’s grain balance (million ton) Year Output Consumption Import 1990 340 346 6 2030(A) 272 479 207 2030(B) 272 641 369 .

B. 1990-2030 Projected grain production and consumption in China based on population and income growth. Projected grain production and consumption in China based on population growth.Brown’s Scenario A & B A. 1990-2030 .

Competition for Grain Total world grain trade today (in 1995) is only about 230 million tonnes As a heavy importer of grain. China will encounter two key questions: 1. Can China afford to import massive quantities of grain? 2. Who can supply grain on this scale? Triggering global grain price rise? .

2001) .Share of Food in Total Imports (1999 .

China’s agricultural achievement.What’s wrong in Lester Brown’s Analysis The year of reference 1994. . The data of arable land. ……….

The Year of Reference 1994 China’s grain output was sustained at about 500 million tonnes a year in the period 1996-1999 .

The Data of Arable Land .

China’s Agricultural Achievement .

China’s Agricultural Achievement .

Comparison between China and India .

700 kcal in 1960 to 2. .Poor.870 kcal in 1995. but not hungry! Per capita daily food consumption rose from 1.

Lessons from Lester Brown’s Assessment Considerable room for improvement in Agriculture • Sustainable agricultural production • Moving from a labor to a capital intensive agriculture • Utilize agricultural technology to improve productivity Solving Chinese “three-nong problems” • Agriculture. countryside and farmers • 农民真苦,农村真穷,农业真危险! .

Conclusion Who will feed the China? The Chinese answer: China and only China will feed China! .