China’s policy options are limited, experts say, as subsidizing domestic farmers could violate World Trade Organization rules and anger trading partners such as the US.
Likewise, the reduced-waste drive will probably have “less impact than everyone thinks”, said Rosa Wang, a Shanghai-based analyst with agro-consulting company JCI China.
She said the pandemic had already dramatically cut consumption as households opted for more economical home cooking because of lockdowns or for safety reasons.
That leaves mainly imports, but China is already the world’s biggest food importer, leaving it vulnerable to trade pressure, and has ramped up imports of grain and other items this year, partly to comply with a tentative US-China trade deal.
Increased Chinese imports, however, could potentially crimp world supplies and drive up prices.
In the long term, China needs aggressive steps to protect arable land from development and improve farmers’ lives to keep them on the land, said the academy’s Li.
Otherwise, it will become increasingly vulnerable to outside forces that “will have an adverse impact on the stability of our imports”, he added.
by LAN Lianchao / Dan Martin