Food security policy options for China

As China becomes more industrial and urbanized, it is likely to become more dependent over time on imports of (especially land-intensive) farm products, most notably livestock feedstuffs. If farmers are slow to adjust to their declining competitiveness, for example by obtaining off-farm employment, the farm–nonfarm household income gap may increase. A decline in food self-sufficiency may be perceived as undermining national food security, and a persistent farm–nonfarm income gap as contributing to social unrest. In these circumstances, what offsetting or compensating policy options should the government consider for ensuring adequate long-term food security and less income inequality? This paper evaluates China’s historical record since 1980 and then projects China’s economy to 2030, using the GTAP global economy-wide model. It draws on past policy experiences of both China and other economies to evaluate prospective interventions by government to address food security and income inequality concerns. The potential effects of some of those are estimated for 2030, again using the GTAP model. The paper concludes by suggesting alternative ways to achieve the fundamental objectives of national food security and less rural–urban income inequality, namely via generic social safety nets and improved rural infrastructure.

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