2014 No.1 Doc: Arable Land, Food & Water

by China Water Risk 19 January, 2014

19 January 2013, China’s top priorities for 2014 are improving the rural environment, maintaining food security and resolving environmental constraints such as water shortages, according to the No. 1 Document.

The No.1 Document has traditionally focused on agriculture and this year it states that China would continue to pursue “basic grain self-sufficiency” whilst increasing the use of overseas markets. Although imports are expected increase to meet rising food demand as a result of urbanisation and “Made in China” food safety fears, Xinhua states that China is not expected to “relax domestic food production at any time”.

Indeed, China recently announced the need to maintain 95% grain self-sufficiency and has drawn a “red-line” minimum at 120 million hectares of arable land in order to achieve this. Deeper reforms to allow transfer of land are thus expected to ensure to the minimum and ensure sustainable rural development.

Specific mention of food security is not surprising as food safety fears have been growing due to worries over water & soil pollution. However the 2014 document also states a move towards resolving water shortages. By linking arable land, food security & water, the No. 1 Document signals central government thinking beyond “silos”  (see more on this view in CLSA’s interview Moving Out of Silos).

Whilst aspirational, the document does not reflect China’s current environmental woes. Indeed the Ministry of Agriculture announced in December 2013 that around 3.33 million hectares of farmland is too polluted to grow crops and more recently, the State Forest Administration stated that around 9% or an area of 34,000 sq. km. of wetlands has disappeared over the last decade.

Given this, we expect to see more policies “straddling” the water-food-energy nexus this year … More on this in our “5 Trends for 2014” article in next month’s newsletter… Subscribe Now