News / Asia

Wealthier China Helps Keep Food Prices High

Residents in prospering nation eating more meat

Don't expect food prices to come down much in 2012, experts say.

While the reasons behind today's high food prices are complex, one nation - China - has an oversized influence on global markets. China's three decades of breathtaking economic growth has fueled a remarkable rise in prosperity in the world's most populous nation.

But what's been good news for China is bad news for many others connected to the global food economy.

Rising prosperity, changing diets

Experts say the first thing people do when they rise out of poverty is improve their diets. That means more meat and animal products.

A few decades ago, meat was a luxury in China. Food was strictly rationed until the 1980s.

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences economist Zhu Ling recalls eating meat only once or twice a month when she was growing up. “Only during Chinese New Year could we get 250 grams of pork each," she says.

But that changed after Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in the 1980s, which set the stage for China’s miraculous growth.  

“This was an era of change and improvement in food consumption," she says. "Basically, apart from vegans, everybody, every family has seen an increase in meat and seafood consumption.”

Chinese pork consumption has more than doubled since 1990, and chicken consumption is up five-fold.

Feeding animals that feed people

Livestock need to eat, too. Feeding those rapidly growing herds and flocks has quickly made China the world’s most voracious consumer of soybeans.

“Ten, 15 years ago China imported virtually no soybeans at all," says to U.S. Department of Agriculture analyst Hui Jiang. "Since the mid-1990s, Chinese imports have grown drastically, to today dominating over half of the total world trade in soybeans.”

The impacts are felt around the world.

“This has been positive for American agriculture,” says Maryland farmer Dave Burrier.

Soybean grower have seen the price of their crop nearly double since Beijing entered the market. Last year, China imported one out of every four soybeans grown in the United States.

Increasing competition

Demand for soybeans has also helped fuel economic growth in Brazil and Argentina, which now compete with the U.S. for the world soy market.

China's tremendous demand helps push prices up - and not just for soybeans.

All crops need land to grow on. “That puts competition on crops like corn and other crops as well," says Jiang. And competition for farmland is also helping increase the cost of food.

And prices are expected to stay high in part because China is not done growing. Its expanding middle class is projected to more than triple this decade, "and its food expenditure is expected to double in the same timeframe," Jiang says.

"Its impact on demand cannot be overstated,” she adds.

Growth in the developing world

But it’s not just China. People in India, Brazil and other emerging economies are also growing wealthier and eating better. Plus, the world is expected to add another two billion people by mid-century.

That’s good news for farmers like Burrier. “I really think that because of the population increase that we’ll continue to have tremendous demand,” he says.

But for consumers, food prices will likely remain high until supply can catch up with that tremendous demand.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid