Beijing: China, the world’s most populous nation, will import more meat and oilseeds over the next decade as consumption outpaces production growth, the OECD said in a joint report with the UN’s food agency, adding inflation pressure to global prices.

Crop and meat consumption will rise in developing countries in 2013-2022, although at a slower pace than the previous decade, driven by growing populations, higher incomes, urbanisation and changing diets, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Food and Agriculture Organisation said.

“Rising prices for both crop and livestock products are projected over the coming decade due to a combination of slower production growth and stronger demand, including for biofuels," the FAO and OECD said in their Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022.

“Meat, fish and biofuel prices are projected to rise more strongly than primary agricultural products."

Climbing costs, growing resource constraints and increasing environmental pressures will hamper agricultural production over the period, the FAO and OECD said, with growth averaging 1.5% a year in 2013-2022, down from 2.1% in the previous decade.

“China’s consumption growth will slightly outpace its production growth by some 0.3% per annum, similar to the trend of the previous decade," the two groups said.

“A further but modest opening of China’s agricultural sector is anticipated although these prospects vary by commodity."

China is already the world’s biggest soybean importer after making a strategic decision to outsource production, mostly to the United States. Some experts predict Beijing may have to do the same for other land-intensive farm products.

China meat imports rising

Meat imports by China are expected to increase by 3% a year to 1.7 million tonnes by 2022, driven by population and income growth. Beef will become the fastest growing import sector with a growth rate of 7% a year, the report said.

While the Chinese government has vowed to remain self-sufficient in major staples, imports of oilseeds and grains are expected to soar.

China’s imports of oilseeds, mostly used for animal feed, are expected to rise by 41% over the 2013-22 period to 83 million tonnes, accounting for 59% of global trade.

Imports of feed grains, including corn and barley, are projected to reach 13.2 million tonnes a year by 2022, compared with corn and barley imports totalling 7.7 million tonnes in 2012, the FAO and OECD said.

Annual wheat imports are expected to reach 2.8 million tonnes by 2022, up from an average 2.1 million tonnes in the past decade.

The report forecast rice imports by China, the world’s top consumer, would fall to an average of 1.5 million tonnes a year in next decade as wealthier citizens consume more meat.

India will take China’s spot as the world’s largest cotton producer in the next decade following a decline in production acreage in the world’s largest cotton consumer, the report said.

China’s annual cotton imports will fall to 1.9 million tonnes by 2022, down 46% from the 2010-12 level due to lower demand by domestic textile mills, it said.

Total cotton consumption in China is expected to fall at a rate of 0.4% a year over the next decade, as its textile industry faces competition from lower cost producers in India.

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