Food crisis and China

For the Group of Eight ministers of agriculture meeting for the first time on Saturday 9there will be no greater example of the dilemma faced in feeding a growing population than China.

The world's largest agricultural economy makes the ministers wary because of its huge and expanding food needs: but also curious at Beijing's success in weathering last year's global food crisis better than most emerging economies.

Ever since China entered its phase of high economic growth 30 years ago it has faced apocalyptic warnings that its increasing demand for food would lead to shortages worldwide.

By and large, these warnings have turned out to be wide of the mark.

Yet in spite of its success in coping with last year's crisis, Beijing still has to feed its population with limited fertile land, scarce water and the threat of climate change.

Given China's size, if these problems are not addressed they will have huge effects on global agricultural markets as Beijing will have to import large amounts of food, tightening markets and sending prices higher.

At a time of heightened concerns about food security, illustrated by the G8 meeting, Beijing's challenge is a concern both at home and beyond. The G8 has warned that, without a doubling of spending by 2050, the global food crisis "will become structural".

China's response to the global and domestic challenge has won praise.

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