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The Problems of Agriculture in China

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China feeds 22 percent of the world population with only seven percent of the planet’s arable land. Land is heavily utilized for agriculture. Vegetables are planted on road embankments, in traffic triangles and right up the walls of many buildings. Even so since 1949 China has lost one fifth of its arable land. Only about 10 to 15 percent of the land in China is good for agriculture (compared to 1 percent in Saudi Arabia, 50 percent in India, 20 percent in the United States, and 32 percent in France). There is 545,960 square kilometers of irrigated land in China. Forty percent of China’s crop land is irrigated, compared to 23 percent in India. The average yield per acre in China is double that of India.

China traditionally has struggled to feed its large population. Even in the twentieth century, famines periodically ravaged China’s population. Great emphasis has always been put on agricultural production, but weather, wars, and politics often mitigated good intentions. With the onset of reforms in the late 1970s, the relative share of agriculture in the gross domestic product (GDP) began to increase annually. Driven by sharp rises in prices paid for crops and a trend toward privatization in agriculture, agricultural output increased from 30 percent of GDP in 1980 to 33 percent of GDP by 1983. Since then, however, agriculture has decreased its share in the economy at the same time that the services sector has increased. By 2004 agriculture (including forestry and fishing) produced only 15.2 percent of China’s GDP but still is huge by any measure. Some 46.9 percent of the total national workforce was engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing in 2004. [Source: Library of Congress]

China is the world’s top consumer of meat and grain. As it becomes more affluent people consume more meat and cooking oil and this has lead to increased demand for soybeans as an oil source and feed for livestock. China also uses more fertilizer that any other country.

David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In contrast to large, highly mechanized American farms, a typical Chinese farm is less than an acre in size and worked by hand. It’s a legacy of communist reform, when the state seized control of China’s farmland and subdivided it into tiny plots. Although this system has kept rural dwellers employed, it has slowed China’s ability to boost their incomes.

With China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, food export opportunities have developed that have brought about still more efficient farming techniques. As a result, traditional areas such as grain production have decreased in favor of cash crops of vegetables and fruit for domestic and export trade. [Source: Library of Congress]

Improved farming policies and technologies have given China a high level of self-sufficiency and growth. But the country’s top economic planning body warned that this would be hard to maintain. The lack of farm subsidies and expropriation of farmland for urban construction has crippled agriculture. As more farmers move to the cities, lured by better housing, education and other incentives, maintaining the food supply becomes more tenuous. One Chine agriculture expert told The Guardian, “We cannot be complacent. We know supply-and-demand is vulnerable. We have a forced balance now that requires strong intervention by the government. This is a tense balance that can be easily broken.”

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The Problems of Agriculture in China. (2018, December 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/agricultre-in-china/
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