News / Asia

Wealthier China Helps Keep Food Prices High

Residents in prospering nation eating more meat

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid