Feeding a Growing Country

The rapid growth within China’s economy is leading to an increased demand for imports, particularly with the growing, affluent Chinese population and the corresponding demand for more protein-rich diets. With a population of 1.3 billion, and expectations to reach 1.4 billion by 2030, even a small shift in food trends can cause tremendous opportunities for the feed grains necessary for expanding meat production from backyard to commercial operations. For example, China is already the largest swine producer and consumer, accounting for half the world’s pig population.

Keeping Up With Demand

Over the next 10 years, imports of coarse grains are expected to double as China struggles to keep up with the rising demand expected to outpace the growth in domestic production of grains. The Chinese domestic grain production is already nearing capacity, largely due to constraints of land and water, as well as access to a workforce to maintain the land.

As food imports become a necessity, major grains exporters like the United States, Brazil and Argentina are building partnerships with China to assist in meeting the mutual goals of food safety, security and sustainability. “As the U.S. continues to grow more corn, we want to develop more markets for exporting that corn,” said Nathan Fields, National Corn Growers Association director of biotechnology and economic analysis. “As a market, China has a lot of potential for corn imports, and we are working with them so they will become a consistent importer."

The Value of Biotechnology

A critical hurdle to meeting the demand will include educating the Chinese population on the safety and effectiveness of biotechnology, and communicating the importance of approving such technologies. These ideas are being emphasized by the major grains exporting countries through the International Maize Alliance (MAIZALL), in which member organizations collaborate on a global basis to address key issues concerning food security, biotechnology, stewardship, trade and producer image.

While the adoption of biotechnology has been a significant issue with grains imports in China, it is imperative to continue communication surrounding the importance of biotechnology to improve inconsistencies with exporting countries, and eliminate problems with supply. “We want to work with China as a market so that trade is not impeded,” Fields said.

“When problems arise in foreign markets, it is critical to stick with them through the growing pains,” said Erick Erickson, U.S. Grains Council vice president. “There is a growing sense of cooperation among major exporters, and an increased effort to build partnerships to ensure the issues of biotechnology are resolved based on science and recognition of its value.”

A Growing Partnership

In order to develop a mutually beneficial trade relationship, China and the United States held the 24thU.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in December 2013. The forum for the resolution of trade and investment issues highlighted several topics that needed to be addressed between the United States and China, including the acceptance of biotechnology. The United States emphasized its commitment to helping China streamline its biotechnology approval process and implementing a pilot program for reviewing biotechnologies, as well as proposing a Memorandum of Understanding for science and technology cooperation in agriculture.

Efforts like these are laying the groundwork for future cooperation between China and exporting countries, while increasing the communication vital for more open and transparent trade with China.