China has decided to stop pursuing the goal of being self sufficient in food production, a Chinese government official announced this week, according to the South China Morning Post. The rapid urbanization of the country is spurring the need for more food.
Chen Xiwen, director of the Chinese Communist Party's top policy making body for rural affairs, told a forum last weekend that food supplies would come under increasing pressure as incomes improved. Despite the country's adoption of more production agriculture technologies, Chen admitted that the country could not "turn back the clock when it comes to imports.
"During the process of urbanization, we must pay attention to modern agricultural development and to farm product supplies, but of course, we certainly cannot pursue self-sufficiency, he said.
China embarked on its policy of self sufficiency in 1978, but since then approximately 260 million farmers have moved to the cities. The rural population has decreased by 80 million between 1982 and 2010, according to census data.
By not pursuing self sufficiency, the country faces the question of its imports. Han Jun, head of the rural department of the Development Research Centre, said China should loosen controls over corn imports and rely more on the global market for cotton, sugar and soybeans.
China's demand for corn is expected to increase dramatically as the country's income boost will trigger a strong desire for more meat.
China is expected to remain mostly self-sufficient in rice and wheat in the years ahead.