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INFOGRAPHIC: Interlinked U.S.-China Food Trade

Susan Chan Shifflett

Rising demand for meat and resource constraints are pushing China to look overseas. At the same time, China's food security continues to be haunted by food safety scandals - from melamine-laced milk to adulterated meat. These issues are opening up new opportunities for U.S.-China business.

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China faces a dilemma. It is home to 20 percent of the world’s population but only seven percent of the world’s water resources and nine percent of the world’s arable land. At the same time, a rising middle class is demanding more food. Over the last 30 years, China’s meat demand has quadrupled.

In 2004, China became a net food importer for the first time

These dynamics are pushing China to look overseas to feed growing appetites. In 2004, it shifted from being a net food exporter to importer for the first time.

The United States has a trade surplus with China when it comes to agricultural products and that surplus has grown considerably over the last decade. In 2013, the United States exported $28.8 billion worth of agricultural products to China, while importing $10.5 billion. China is now the top destination for U.S. agricultural exports overall. Almost half of these exports are soybeans, commonly used to produce animal feed.

In the other direction, U.S. food imports from China have also ramped up over the last decade. Nearly 8 out of 10 tilapia sold in the United States come from China, 70 percent of the apple juice, and half the cod.

China’s growing demand for food is opening up new opportunities for U.S. agriculture and strengthening already strong trade ties.

Join the China Environment Forum on September 30, 2014 for a discussion with Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, on how rapid shifts in food production and consumption in China are threatening the country’s food security and changing global food markets. 

Sources: Financial Times, Ministry of Agriculture (China), PBS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Xinhua.

Image Credit: Siqi Han/China Environment Forum.

This article was first posted on the China Environment Forum’s column on New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program.

About the Author

Susan Chan Shifflett

Susan Chan Shifflett

Former Associate, China Environment Forum
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China Environment Forum

Since 1997, the China Environment Forum's mission has been to forge U.S.-China cooperation on energy, environment, and sustainable development challenges. We play a unique nonpartisan role in creating multi-stakeholder dialogues around these issues.  Read more

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