Renewable Farming

China’s struggle with soil pollution and degradation amplifies corn, soybean imports

“In China, food safety is threatened by an increasingly opaque political system.” That’s a daring headline for any Chinese writer to publish. But Yanzhong Huang published this criticism today in the South China Morning Post, a newspaper circulated widely in China. 

January 10, 2021 — Yanzhong hits Chinese authorities hard: “The task of improving what goes on the table is hampered by a system hungry to cling to power.”

China’s booming imports of corn, soybeans and wheat from the U.S. and other suppliers exposes part of the Communist party’s problem of raising enough food. The essay by Yanzhong also describes serious health issues arising from soils polluted with pesticides, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. 

He notes that members of the Communist party, military and wealthy elite dine on the finest organic foods delivered through exclusive channels.

Average factory workers and poor rural families subsist on rice, vegetables, meat and seafood of questionable nutritional value and safety. In August, President Xi Jinping launched a new “Clean Plate” campaign aimed at convincing Chinese people to avoid wasting food. One of Xi’s previous food campaigns in 2013 cracked down on Communist officials who flaunted lavish parties and feasts, heating resentment among ordinary citizens.

Soil degradation, food contamination during processing, and declining nutrient content from heavy artificial fertilizer use remain a systemic challenge across China. Xi Jinping’s short-term answer is tougher environmental and food safety regulations. China’s long-term answer is expanding control over multiple sources for imported food, especially in Latin America and Africa as well as neighboring Asian nations. 

We recommend that you follow the link to the South China Morning Post, and read Yanzhong Huang’s insights. Typically, the South China Morning Post allows you free access a few times before restricting part of its reports and asking you for a subscription.

Update March 17, 2021 Canadian outlook specialist Mike Jubinville reports this morning:

“The main feature in the market this week has been China’s purchase of US corn (1.156 MMT) which has been widely rumored since last week. Trade pundits are suggesting the purchase took place last week, but the announcement was delayed till yesterday. This latest purchase by China takes their total known commitments of US corn to 19.859 MMT, although most believe at least half of the 5.639 MMT sitting in the unknown category also belongs to them. Even with the weakness in Chinese Dalian futures during January and early March, Chinese corn prices are still north of US $10.50/bu, offering plenty of incentive to take the cheaper priced US supply.”

Update June 12, 2021   U.S. ag outlook specialists note that China has silenced traditional reports on the nation’s grain inventories, livestock production and interior price movements.  Here’s a comment from AgWeb:

Dermot Hayes, an economist with Iowa State University, says the Chinese used that tactic to their advantage recently. He says China’s strategic decision to protect market intel helped the country buy grain at a cheaper price.

“China bought almost a billion bushels of corn from us at a relatively low price, or prices much lower than we would have sold it to them if we knew that they were going to buy a billion bushels, so it’s playing to their advantage and our disadvantage,” he adds.

For AgWeb’s complete story, follow this link: