China Looks to African Soil to Feed Its Economy

China’s forays into in search of natural resources and new markets have been well-documented in recent years. As part of China’s overall Africa policy, there has also always been a significant focus on . In the past, however, that focus has been primarily on development aid, equipment, training, and education.

For years, China has been sending experts and technicians to African countries to share practical expertise relating to irrigation, agronomy, livestock, fisheries and post-harvest handling of agricultural produce. And, just recently, China’s first research center on farming in Africa has been inaugurated at Nanjing Agricultural University.

It has been clear for years that with increasing food demand, urban migration, and loss or arable land to industry and urban sprawl, China would eventually face severe problems. China also has only about one-third the arable land per person as the rest of the world and officials say that the 470,000 square miles of arable land now available are barely 7,000 square miles above the minimum needed for food security.

Now, with an increasing global food crisis, the Chinese government has begun to make the purchase of farmland in Africa a central government policy.

C.Paskal on writes:

In an era of food-supply scarcity, it is only logical that crops are included in nation-to-nation deals. For example, one would expect China to add food crops, or farm land, into its growing number of arrangements with African nations, which could explain part of China’s support for Robert Mugabe in that potential breadbasket, Zimbabwe (one report states that China has already received rights to farm 250,000 acres, or 1,000 square kilometres, of corn in southern Zimbabwe). Already in countries such as Laos, Congo, Indonesia and Cambodia, Chinese companies are farming products that will go straight to the home market (sometimes using Chinese labour).

And today’s Wall Street Journal reports:

China, the world’s top food producer, is getting more actively involved. In April, it announced it will invest $5 billion over the next 50 years through its China-Africa Development Fund to finance food and cash-crop production in Africa. In Liberia, Chinese experts are bringing modern farming methods, fertilizers, pesticides and improved seed varieties — including the more disease-resistant, higher-yield Chinese rice grown in the president’s backyard. The China Henan International Cooperation Group Co. has a contract to rebuild the country’s major roads. That is a critical development for rural areas needing market access.

Other recent articles that comment on similar efforts by the Chinese government to secure its food supply by venturing into Africa:

* Chinese debate pros and cons of overseas farming investments
* Nationalistic capitalism and the food crisis
* Africa: China Earmarks U.S.$5 Billion for Food Production on Continent
* China looks abroad to grow its own food
* China eyes overseas land in food push
* China Farming Beyond Its Borders To Feed Economy
* Africa at large: China eyes idle farmland in continent
* Landless Chinese farmers migrate to Africa in search of agricultural opportunities

Other countries appear to be adopting similar strategies:

* Abu Dhabi looks to Sudan to secure food supply
A new scramble for Africa: but is it really win-win for everyone?
* Ensuring food security in the region


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