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Food insecurity: Chinese meat consumption grows 400% in 40 years

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese consumers consume on average 3,074 calories
Chinese consumers consume on average 3,074 calories

Related tags: Agriculture, Pizza hut, China

Increasing meat consumption in China is leading the country to abandon its aims of food self-sufficiency.

According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the daily calorie intake from meat has more than doubled since 1991 as wealth has increased, bringing the country towards the meat consumption levels of western countries.

China’s changing diet is already exerting a powerful influence on domestic and international agriculture​,” said Richard Ferguson, author of the report. 

Amid volatility in commodities markets, China’s continuing shift towards consumerism, means the outlook for soft food stuffs is relativity bright​.”

Ferguson tipped fruit, vegetables, corn and wheat as safe havens for long-term investors.

PwC’s research shows that the average daily calorie intake in China was 1,863 calories per person in 1971, compared to 3,025 in the UK. Forty years later, this average had grown to 3,074 calories, whereas that of the UK had grown to 3,414. 

During the same period, calories from meat had increased by well over 400% per person per day in China.

As a result, China has become more dependent on feedstock imports of soya bean and corn in particular. The domestic agricultural market, meanwhile, has moved towards meat production, and also to higher-value fruit and vegetables.

Supply side challenges, such as diminished viable farmland, polluted water supplies, depleted aquifers, overuse of fertilisers and land rights disputes, mean that a new market is emerging for companies that specialise in digital mapping, traceability, soil analysis, precision farming and waste management.

In a bid to secure its food lines, China has been investing in foreign farmland and acquiring foreign companies.

Self-sufficiency is no longer a practical policy goal for China​,” said Ferguson. “The government appears to recognise this with its priorities shifting towards high-value crops, such as fruits and vegetables, and a focus on quality and food safety​.

Simultaneously, China is venturing overseas to bolster its food security though investments in foreign farmland and the acquisition of companies across the broader food value chain​.

"This is where the global impact of China’s increasing food needs will be felt most acutely. These acquisition trends, driven by domestic policy imperatives, are likely to continue​.” 

Slow China growth hits Yum Brands global results

American fast-food major Yum Brands has seen its same-store operating profits rise in China by just 2% in the third-quarter, leading to the company to miss its Wall Street earnings and revenue estimates.

Following significant expansion of its KFC and Pizza Hut chains in the country, which has seen 108 new stores open during the quarter, China generates more than half of the company’s operating profit.

While Yum’s chief executive, Greg Creed, expressed his pleasure that same-store sales in China had turned positive, he added that the pace of this was “below our expectations​”.

Our growth fundamentals in China, including new-unit development, remain intact. However, we’re experiencing unexpected headwinds, making the second-half of the year more challenging than we anticipated​,” Creed said.

Yum’s new China division head Micky Pant will take significant actions to get sales, traffic and profits back to historic levels, he said.

Chinese exports decline 6% year on year

China’s exports declined by 6.1% over the previous year in August, according to figures from the country’s customs administration. Observers say the numbers are another reminder that China’s economy continues to face challenges in rebalancing to cope with slowing export demand, particularly after the recent yuan devaluation. 

AsiaInspection, the quality control and compliance service provider, whose data can be used as a barometer for the state of a country’s food industry, has issued figures which showed just a 3.2% year-on-year increase of inspections performed in China

This represents the slowest growth in the company’s history, AsiaInspection said. 

Inner Mongolia developing into a mine for ‘brain gold’

A region in Inner Mongolia now accounts for one-quarter of China’s spirulina production, with annual output reaching 750 tonnes.

Etuoke’s Qagan Nur Lake—with Lake Chad in Africa and the Mexico’s Lake Texcoco, one of three natural salt lakes that grow the spirulina species—is considered exceptionally rich in DHA, or brain gold.

Etuoke banner, in the northern autonomous region, will soon see the completion of an 827-hectare spirulina industrial park, with some businesses in the first phase of the project already having opened.

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