With the disruption of the global food supply chain due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, many nations are in the position of having to feed their own populations without the luxury of worldwide supply routes.
The United Nations estimates that food insecurity in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean already is affecting nearly 700 million people.
Considering the mounting issues in the People’s Republic of China, that number could grow if things continue to go wrong for the communist powerhouse.
China’s impending shortage comes after several devastating blows to the country’s agricultural industry.
The Asian giant has been hit hard by flooded corn crops and the African swine fever, according to The Washington Post. But fresh foods of all kinds are in short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic and flooding. Eggs, seafood and leafy green vegetables are among the foods affected by supply problems.
Swine fever, harmless to humans but fatal to pigs, forced farmers and governments to begin mass culls. The impact of the disease was immediately felt in China, where pork is one of the most popular meats.
Demand only grew as the hog supply in the country withered by more than 40 percent throughout most of 2019, according to the South China Morning Post. That sent prices skyrocketing, and soon, people were forced to turn to alternatives as pig farmers failed to keep up with consumers.
The popularity of dog meat, which is inexpensive and doesn’t carry the same cultural taboos in China as it does in the West, soared as restaurants and markets began offering more of the cuts.
Being priced out of pork isn’t the only issue the Chinese consumer is facing.
Historically devastating floods are still sweeping the country, damaging crops and infrastructure. According to CNN, the deluge has affected at least 13 million acres of farmland.
The destruction isn’t only affecting staples such as rice and wheat, but also corn and soybeans grown as livestock feed.
Although Beijing tried to reassure the Chinese people of the government’s ability to handle the crisis, the attempt inadvertently revealed how much the country is holding in its food reserves.
According to Global Times, an English-language mouthpiece for the regime owned by the Chinese Communist Party, the country has only about a year’s worth of China’s two main grains, rice and wheat, in reserve.
“The current stock exceeds one year’s annual output,” the outlet reported, which suggests the government has more than one year’s worth of food reserves, but not much more.
And while this might alleviate a short-term issue, it’s foreboding for the long term of China’s gargantuan population.
A trade war with the United States already disrupted the country’s food imports, forcing China to repeal tariffs on American foodstuffs.
For China, a country with several living generations who have memories of famine and starvation, food security is one of the most important issues for the government to handle.
If the ruling communist party can’t get a grip on the food situation in China, expensive pork will be the least of leaders’ worries.
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