Africa: May Not Be The Promised (Agricultural) Land For China

Via Consultancy Africa Intelligence, a report that China may not look towards Africa as a saviour in the trend towards outsourcing food production.  As the article notes:

“…China’s Deputy Agricultural Minister, Niu Dun, has announced that China will not look towards the African continent to outsource food production by investing in overseas farmland. Accoring to Niu Dun, the Chinese government preferred to depend on its own land to maintain food self-sufficiency and ultimately food security. A decision by the Chinese government to formally invest in African farm land would have had wide sweeping implications for the continent. The announcement that China will not purse the outsourcing of food production signals a strident move towards protecting domestic food production within China. But, what does this mean for the African continent and does it really signal a policy shift of the Chinese government?

As Chinese investment and engagement throughout the continent has increased throughout this decade so to have the levels of speculation surrounding what motivates Chinese interest in Africa. One argument often tabled is that the Chinese government is seeking to protect and ensure its national interest through securing access to vital minerals and resources, including agricultural resources. This drive to secure national interest is at the behest of maintaining and sustaining China’s rapid economic growth. The securitization of the access to resources has played a vital role in the discourse surrounding China in Africa. To what extent this is the driving force behind China’s engagement in Africa is at the forefront of academic discussion.

The announcement that China will not seek to secure African agricultural resources to protect Chinese food security is a policy decision by the Chinese government to not rely on outside sources for food security. This does not however imply that private companies and government backed funding through the China Development Bank and other lending facilities will not be used to acquire agricultural land throughout the continent. Further, the trend has been for the Chinese to provide technical expertise and equipment to African farmers in order to increase food output. This is not purely for altruistic motives as in return the Chinese are acquiring agricultural output from African farmers.

This decade has witnessed a marked increase in China’s engagement within African agricultural sectors. During the China-Africa summit, in November 2006, Beijing agreed to set up as many as 10 different agricultural centres throughout the continent. Since then, a number of the agricultural centres have been established. These centres are largely focused on giving assistance to local farmers through providing seeds and training to increase crop output and yields. Further, the Chinese government has pledged US$ 30 million to boosting food output to developing countries, including those within Africa. This has resulted in hundred’s of Chinese farming experts being placed within strategic African agricultural sectors to assist and develop the continent’s agricultural production.

China currently has only seven percent of the world’s arable land and 20 percent of its population yet as the world’s biggest agricultural economy and its largest consumer of cereals, China has witnessed a marked decline in agricultural production since its peek in 1998. This is due in large part to the rapid industrialisation of the country to fuel economic growth as well as the growing threat of desertification and the pollution of water resources. Between 1998 and 2003 China experienced an 18 percent decline in grain producing areas. Within China, consumption has outpaced domestic food production leaving the government with the critical initiative to acquire and secure food resources.

Ultimately the announcement by Niu Dun that China will not strategically seek agricultural resources within Africa does not pose a significant policy shift towards the African continent. The fact of the matter is that China is in dire need of securing agricultural resources and will continue to do so through its tacit methods of providing support to African farmers as opposed to buying agricultural land outright.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 25th, 2009 at 10:35 am and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
Seeds Of A Revolution is committed to defining the disruptive geopolitics of the global Farms Race.  Due to the convergence of a growing world population, increased water scarcity, and a decrease in arable land & nutrient-rich soil, a spike of international investment interest in agricultural is inevitable and apt to bring a heretofore domestic industry into a truly global realm.  Whether this transition involves global land leases or acquisitions, the fundamental need for food & the protectionist feelings this need can give rise to is highly likely to cause such transactions to move quickly into the geopolitical realm.  It is this disruptive change, and the potential for a global farms race, that Seeds Of A Revolution tracks, analyzes, and forecasts.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has long held a keen interest in natural resource policy and the geopolitical implications of anticipated stresses in the areas of freshwater scarcity, biodiversity reserves & parks, and farm land.  Monty has lived, worked, and traveled in more than forty countries spanning Africa, China, western Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southeast & Central Asia, and his personal interests comprise economic development, policy, investment, technology, natural resources, and the environment, with a particular focus on globalization’s impact upon these subject areas.  Monty writes about freshwater scarcity issues at and frontier investment markets at