Appetite for Meat in China Means Agriculture Imports, FAO Says

China’s imports of animal feed ingredients will lead the country’s increasing dependence on global agricultural markets in the next decade as rising incomes spur meat-rich diets, the OECD and the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization forecast.

Imports of oilseeds such as soybeans, a source of protein for hogs and poultry, will total 83 million metric tons in 2022, an increase of 40 percent from 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development and the United Nations's FAO wrote in a joint report on the outlook for agriculture. Imports of coarse grain, mostly corn, will be 13.2 million tons in 2022, the report said.

The nation’s rising population, urban expansion and growing wealth are coupled with a reduction in the quality and amount of land and water available for farming, the report said. China’s largest pork processor is poised to takeover Smithfield Food Inc. as the pressure encourages companies to look overseas to meet food demand.

“The historic economic and social transformation of China which has been evidenced in the past three to four decades has and will continue to have huge potential implication for international agricultural markets,” according to the report. “China, which now holds one-fifth of the world’s population, is endowed with little arable land and water supplies relative to its population base.”

Meat imports may rise 3 percent annually over the next 10 years to 1.7 million tons in 2022, with beef growing fastest at 7 percent, it said. The amount of dairy products China buys will rise 20 percent over 10 years, it said.

Chinese Acquisition

Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. last week won Smithfield Food’s acceptance for what’s set to be the largest Chinese acquisition of a U.S. company as China’s appetite for pork grows.

Wheat and rice imports are projected at 2.8 million tons and 1.5 million tons in 2022, respectively, the report said. Last year’s imports were 3.7 million tons and 2.3 million tons, customs data show. Government policies protecting local growers will curb China’s imports of food grain, Merritt Cluff, senior economist at FAO, said in an interview in Beijing today.

Cotton imports will drop to 1.9 million tons by 2022, it said. Last year’s imports were 5.1 tons, customs data show.

— With assistance by William Bi

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