Food shortage fears see China’s state reserves expand further

ANZ Research says its likely China’s stockpiles of food have reached new all-time-highs, as fears of a global food shortage intensify.

Using available international trade and other domestic data points, analysts estimate China’s state pork reserves have now exceeded 1 billion kilograms – the highest ever.

ANZ’s analysis follows the release of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which contains staggering estimates on the size on China’s grain stockpiles.

According the Department, China posses 70% of global Maize reserves, 60% of global rice reserves, and 50% of global wheat reserves.

China’s strategic reserves are rarely spoken about by Chinese Government officials. However in March of this year, a Chinese State Media report quoted China’s minister of agriculture and rural affairs, Tang Renjian saying this.

“No matter how the external situation changes, we are capable of ensuring that more than 1.4 billion people have each meal on time. Our rice bowls will be held more firmly in our own hands and filled with better and healthier food.”

And in December of 2021, Qin Yuyun, a spokesperson from China’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration was quoted saying the following:

“Our wheat stockpiles can meet demand for one and a half years. There is no problem whatsoever about the supply of food.”

China’s growing stockpiles of food and oil have attracted criticism from other Governments as they grapple with inflation.

Criticism from the west as food shortage crisis deepens

While stockpiling some 50% of the world’s grain and pork is likely to stave off major food inflation problems in China, western adversaries who are grappling with surging food prices and food shortages have criticised China’s aggressive stockpiling.

“China has been a very active buyer of grain and it is stockpiling grain at a time when hundreds of millions of people are entering the catastrophic phase of food insecurity,” said James O’Brien, head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination in the United States State Department, last month.

“We would like to see it (China) act like the great power that it is and provide more grain to the poor people around the world.”

Food shortage

In an article for The Conversation, John Hammond, a Professor of Crop Science at the University of Reading labels the global food system “bankrupt”.

“We are currently witnessing the beginning of a global food crisis, driven by the knock-on effects of a pandemic and more recently the rise in fuel prices and the conflict in Ukraine,” writes Hammond.

“Crops rely on a good supply of nutrients to deliver high yields and quality (as well as water, sunlight and a healthy soil), which in modern farming systems come from manufactured fertilisers. As you sit and read this article, the air you breath contains 78% nitrogen gas – this is the same source of nitrogen used in the production of most manufactured nitrogen fertilisers.”

“However, to take this gas from the air and into a bag of fertiliser takes a huge amount of energy. The Haber-Bosch process, which converts nitrogen and hydrogen into ammonia as a crucial step in creating fertilisers, uses between 1% and 2% of all energy generated globally by some estimates. Consequently, the cost of producing nitrogen fertiliser is directly linked to the cost of fuel. This is why the UK price of ammonium nitrate has climbed as high as £1,000 per tonne at the time of writing, compared to £650 a week ago.”

As the world grapples with the possibility of a major food shortage, the Chinese Government is well aware of the ramifications of being caught up in this.

Food shortages have been the primary cause of the toppling of previous Chinese dynasties.

As Asia Markets reported last week (read below), Xi Jinping is already faced with social unrest caused by the nation’s property and banking crises.

It’s clear he’s doing all he can to prevent another catalyst for further unrest.