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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More