November 10, 2011
China might face increasingly grim food shortages over the next few decades due to climate change that could erode the country's grain harvest, a leading agriculturalist said.
Tang Huajun, deputy dean of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), said yield loss on the country's three main crops - rice, wheat, and corn - is foreseeable if the country fails to take effective measures to offset the impact of climate change.
"The impact of climate change, especially extreme weather and plant diseases and insects, will cause a bigger grain production fluctuation in China and bring more serious threats to the country's food supplies," he said.
China's grain output, which recorded 546.4 million tonnes in 2010, is expected to jump to a record high of more than 550 million tonnes, marking the eighth consecutive year for increased production, the Ministry of Agriculture said.
Meanwhile, the impact of climate change, as well as arable land loss and water shortages on the country's food supplies, has sparked growing concerns among agricultural professionals about the world's biggest grain producer.
"The country's rice output may suffer 4-14 % decline in 2050. Wheat and corn could fall by 2-20% and 1-23% respectively if climate change continues," Tang said.
The total output coming from the three main crops always accounts for more than 80% of China's total grain production.
According to Ministry of Agriculture projections, the country's total grain demand will reach 572.5 million tonnes by 2020, an increase of 47.5 million tonnes compared to 2010.
"China will be faced with a heavy task ensuring its food security, since negative effects of climate change has become more obvious and these are increasing," said Qu Sixi, deputy director of the ministry's department of international cooperation.
For instance, the country's arable land affected by flooding increased from five million hectares per year in the 1970s to 10 million hectares per year in the 2000s, CAAS statistics showed.
Also, the annual grain harvest loss due to pests and plant diseases increased from 6 million tonnes in the early 1970s to 13 million tonnes in the mid-2000s, official figures showed.
Wang Jimin, deputy director of CAAS' agricultural economics and development institute, said that the country might have to increasingly import agricultural products from overseas markets in the future.
Domestic supply of corn will reduce as production is limited, while the country's feed consumption is rising, he added.
Also, as the country will strive to satisfy arable land demand to realise its self-sufficiency in grain supply, the import of other agriculture products, such as cotton and oil crops, will increase in future, he said.