A major food crisis seems to be looming over China that is now looking towards India for the import of rice that is a staple for about two-thirds of its population. Apart from the Wuhan virus pandemic, China has faced calamities including floods, epidemics, locusts and also suffered trade setbacks that have shaken the food supply of the country. In view of the food shortage, Chinese premier Xi Jinping had even launched a public campaign to control food wastage.
According to a report by Wion, some Chinese experts had claimed that the country was possibly in the middle of a food crisis and China, as usual, tried its best to keep the news under wraps. After the reduction in rice supplies from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, China has now turned to India to import rice. Traditionally, China has been purchasing rice from Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Pakistan but now the countries are quoting rates which were at $30 extra for a tonne of rice. The fact that China is importing rice from India despite the situation at the LAC shows that the country is in desperate need of rice. China has contracted Indian traders for the import of 100,000 tonnes of broken rice for $300 per tonne.
As per reports, several reasons are here for the current food crisis in China. The impact of the pandemic on agriculture, livestock diseases, disruption of global supply chains, disruption in the agricultural cycle in China due to lockdown, shortage of labour and devastating floods are some of the causes.
Chinese President launched a campaign to stop food wastage
Recently, the Chinese President had termed the wastage of food in China as ‘shocking’ and ‘distressing’. In August this year, he launched a campaign in the country called ‘Operation Empty Plate’. The campaign was first launched in 2013 to target big feasts organised by Chinese officials. Now, the campaign has been extended to the public. The Chinese President had asked people to prevent wastage of food and eat frugally. He did not mention anything about food shortage and instead claimed that the country had a ‘bumper harvest’.
As part of the campaign, restaurants in China started adopting special measures to stop wastage of food. The catering association in Wuhan, where Covid-19 reportedly started, was started in which the number of portions that one could order in restaurants was limited. The association wrote open letters to restaurants to be mindful of the amount of food that they served.
The ‘N-1 Model’ to stop food wastage
A new rule, called the ‘n-1 model’ was created which limited the number of portions of food served in group dining. This means that if food was ordered for a group of 5 people in a restaurant, only 4 portions of food would be served. As part of the campaign, the Chinese government removed videos showing people eating large quantities of food quickly as the government felt that the videos encouraged food wastage. Some restaurants in the country had reportedly started asking customers to weigh themselves before ordering food but the practice was discontinued after backlash.
The Chinese media have reportedly been denying food shortage saying that the quality of being careful with money or resources especially avoiding wastage was a part of Chinese culture. There were also reports of massive harvest in China.
China’s corn shortage
In the month of September, there were reports that prices of corn had surged in China as the country was heading towards a shortage of corn in the upcoming 2020/2021 season. According to reports, the country could face a deficit of up to 30 million tonnes which makes around 10 per cent of the total produce. The country was reportedly planning to import corn to satisfy its demand.