Extra grain import by China could upset global market

January 22nd, 2009 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 22 (IANS) Even if rapidly urbanising China were to import just five percent of its grain requirments, experts fear it would upset the world market. The knock-on effect on the food supply - and on prices - to developing nations could be huge.

Researchers have conducted a major study into the vulnerability of Chinese cropland to drought over the past 40 years, which has highlighted the growing fragility of global grain supply.

“China is a country undergoing a massive transformation, which is having a profound effect on land use,” said Elisabeth Simelton, research fellow at the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, and co-author of the study.

“Growing grain is a fundamentally low profit exercise, and is increasingly being carried out on low quality land with high vulnerability to drought.”

The study looked at China’s three main grain crops; rice, wheat and corn, to assess how socio-economic factors affect their vulnerability to drought. Researchers compared farming areas with a resilient crop yield with areas that have suffered large crop losses with only minor droughts.

“Quality land is increasingly being used for high profit crops, such as vegetables and flowers. The impact of this on local and global economies is an issue that the newly created Centre for Climate Change, Economics and Policy (CCCEP) will address,” explained Simelton, according to a Leeds release.

CCCEP is a partnership between the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics. Its main objectives include developing better climate change models and understanding how developing countries can adapt to climate change.

The report was published in Environmental Science and Policy.

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