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Will epidemic, locust plague be trigger of food crisis in China?

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/23 22:37:59

Photo: IC

As the plague of locusts is likely to put on extra pressure on world food supply this year, it is more urgent than ever for China to ensure its own grain production despite the impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Though there is a very low risk of a locust plague attacking China, relevant authorities are still closely watching for any potential invasion, which has already hit East Africa, India and Pakistan and has even threatened to spread to Southeast Asia. Needless to say, global food supply will face major challenges in the wake of the locust plague, highlighting the urgency of ensuring China's spring ploughing and sowing.

Thanks to its growing population and consumption rise, while China has been making efforts to boost grain production, it still has become one of the biggest importers of the world's soybeans, rice, and wheat over the years, with a rising dependence on the international grain market. According to the 2019 Global Food Security Index released by The Economist Intelligence Unit, China ranked 35th in terms of food security.

In fact, with the increasing amount of grain imports pouring into China in recent years, there has already been mounting concerns over food insecurity among domestic industry insiders.

It should be noted that China cannot rely too much on the international market for food security. If we fail to keep its grain imports below a certain percentage like 10 percent of total consumption, then the country's food problem may even trigger a global food security crisis.

In this sense, China must adhere to its basic bottom line in global grain trade this year by ensuring normal grain production amid the epidemic to avoid adding the extra burden on global food supply.

So far China is not poised to raise its quotas for this year's grain imports. Yet, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak may disrupt China's normal agricultural production as Pan Wenbo, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said at a recent press briefing that virus control and prevention is affecting the spring ploughing and sowing due to work resumption failure at some agricultural enterprises, shortage of fertilizers and seeds, as well as blocked farming activities.

If the epidemic causes a delay in China's spring ploughing and sowing this year, then a consequent decline in summer grain output would force the country to increase grain imports to meet domestic demand, probably resulting in inflated food prices globally.

In this sense, authorities must take decisive actions to ensure that the spring ploughing and sowing can proceed smoothly as usual across the country. While it is still unclear when Chinese people's work and life can return to normalcy, China should focus its efforts on ensuring its food security and avoiding a food crisis.



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