China looks abroad to grow its own food
By Richard Spencer
Chinese farming companies may be backed by the government to buy and lease tracts of land in Africa and Latin America to grow crops to feed its 1.3 billion people.
A proposal before the state council, or cabinet, proposes extending a business strategy known as the "go-out policy" to farmland.
As food prices rise, the Chinese government is anxious about food security, though it may not be willing to risk the accusation of colonialism that such a move would attract.
The country has long tried to be self-sufficient despite having only eight per cent of the world's tillable farmland to feed more than a fifth of its population.
The result is often ruinous to the environment and agricultural efficiency, but the government is increasing rather than reducing protectionist measures. Using land in Africa as a solution is already under way.
Companies are buying and leasing land across Africa, sending out Chinese labourers and producing crops for sale on the world market – and back home.
Xie Guoli, a senior agriculture ministry official, said that it was government policy to encourage business to "go out" but planners were still discussing whether it was in China's best interests for farming companies to be among them.