While quite a lot of ink has been spilled over China’s scramble for African oil and mineral resources, little notice has been taken of its growing demand for food stuffs from Africa and for new agricultural land. As China grows wealthier, the eating habits of millions of its citizens have become far more demanding. In 1985, the Chinese consumed an average of 25 kilos of meat per person per year – today consumption has doubled to 50 kilos. The consumption of other food stuffs such as seafood, rice, soybeans, sugar, cereals and other crops has risen by 30 to 40 percent in the past decade. China’s growing demand for food and the rapid shrinking of available arable land in China itself due to environmental degradation and urbanization have made finding new agricultural lands an urgent priority for the Chinese government.
China’s search for new land has led Beijing to aggressively seek large land leases in Mozambique over the past two years, particularly in its most fertile areas, such as the Zambezi valley in the north and the Limpopo valley in the south. The Zambezi valley is the richest region of Mozambique with an area of 230,000 kilometers (88,800 square miles) spread between Tete and Zambezia provinces. The valley possesses some of the most fertile land in the world, as well as substantial resources below ground, such as coal, gold, and precious stones.