China's eating more, and you're going to pay for it
Chinese food demand is increasing, causing prices to rise.
As the Chinese become affluent and seek to diversify their diets with American-inspired food, China finds itself facing a double dilemma. How to meet demand with diminishing crop yields and increasing world prices.
China is making great strides in industrialization, and is building factories and sprawling cities atop land that could otherwise be used for farming. Meanwhile, Chinese farmers, having maximized the amount of land they can farm, are also pumping water to keep their crops growing. This water, in many places pumped from wells, is being drawn from aquifers faster than it can be replenished. Ultimately, farmers are faced with a ceiling in how much they can produce.
China is importing ever-increasing quantities of grain to make up the difference, causing world prices to increase. In the United States, farmers are already producing the maximum yields they can produce and Just as in China, are drawing more and more water out of finite aquifers.
Farmers say they would love to produce more, to take advantage of the higher prices, but without new land and more water, it simply isn't possible.
This means food prices will continue to increase globally.
In China, more affluent workers, paid more thanks to improvements in that country's economy, are trying to eat more like Americans, which means a shift from the traditional diet of pork to one of beef.
The problem is that beef requires more grain to produce than pork or chicken. According to the Earth Institute, it takes seven pounds of grain to raise a pound of beef, and three pounds for pork and two for chicken.
Any shift from low-intensity meat harvesting to something they requires more grain to produce will strain world supplies.
Rice production in China is also stagnating as farmers find themselves stuck with less land and less water for their crops.
Finally, as aquifers are pumped dry, farmland is becoming untenable around the globe.
The world is reaching a maximum capacity for traditional food production and the coming years will only see the crisis worsen with food prices increasing. Eventually, farmland will become too precious to convert for factories or homes and cities and factories will need to learn how to build upwards instead of outwards.
Meanwhile, new sources of water will have to be tapped, or more efficient methods of farming will need to be developed.
In the United States, meat consumption has actually dropped. Experts credit rising food prices and a growing spread of vegetarianism.
For wealthy nations like the United States and China, food will remain relatively cheap and easy to obtain. For poorer nations, especially those who face serious food insecurity, the news from China is particularly dire. In a globalized economy, every spoonful of food on your plate really is one less somewhere else in the world that needs it.
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© 2013, Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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