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Susan Chan Shifflett  March 3, 2014

How has China managed to feed nearly one-quarter of the world’s population with only seven percent of the world’s arable land?

In 1995, Lester Brown forecasted doom and gloom for China’s ability to produce enough grain for its people, in his popular book, Who Will Feed China? He hypothesized that China would be forced to buy grain from abroad, thereby seriously disrupting world food markets.

“China has been able to meet grain production targets year after year”

But, says Christine Boyle, co-author of a recently released World Bank report on China’s water and food security through 2030, China has proved naysayers wrong. Thanks to improved smallholder farms and land diversity, “China has been able to meet grain production targets year after year despite large portions of the country stricken by drought,” Boyle says in an interview with the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum.

However, as domestic farmland and water become more polluted and agriculture increasingly competes with industry for the same precious water resources, China has also turned to the global commodity market and buying farmland abroad to augment this strategy. And the effect of this shift overseas remains unclear.

Sources: UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Video Credit: Susan Chan Shifflett/Wilson Center.


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