Chinese Grain Production Fell Sharply This Summer, Officials Say

October 10, 2018 Updated: October 10, 2018

China’s summer grain yields dropped by more than 3 million tons this year compared with 2017, representing a significant decrease in production, at a time when Beijing aims to reduce its reliance on imports from the United States.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS), total nationwide grain production in summer 2018 was 138.72 million tons, representing a net decrease of 3.06 million tons, or 2.2 percent, from 2017. The production of summer grain per unit area was 5,194.9 kilograms (about 11,500 pounds) per hectare, or a reduction of 1.6 percent when compared with 2017.

Exacerbating the problem is that some local governments seek to trick inspectors from the central authorities by showing them select grain silos laden with harvest, while others stand empty. In more egregious cases, local authorities have been known to set fire to their granaries in order to claim losses to natural disaster and conveniently cover up low yields.

According to the official website of the State Grain and Material Reserve Bureau, as of Sept. 25, the total harvest of wheat in principal agricultural regions was 48.139 million tons, a year-on-year decline of 22.406 million tons, or almost 47 percent.

In primary production areas, the long-grained rice harvest was 7.689 million tons, a year-on-year decrease of 1.155 million tons, or 15 percent. For rapeseed, the total was 1.104 million tons, a year-on-year decline of 137,000 tons.

China is a major food importer. Even in ideal circumstances, its domestic food production falls far short of meeting demand. China’s General Administration of Customs announced at the beginning of this year that China imported a total of 130.62 million tons of grain in 2017, an increase of 13.9 percent since 2016 and a record high.

Among them, total imports of soybeans were 95.53 million tons, net imports of rice stood at 4.03 million tons, wheat at 4.42 million tons, and corn at 2.83 million tons. Meanwhile, in the same year, Chinese grain exports totaled 2.8 million tons.

According to the World Bank, China’s total grain demand will reach 670 million tons in 2020 and 700 million tons in 2030. Even if China can maintain its historical peak harvest of 620 million tons, it will still encounter grain shortages.

The decreases in production bode ill for Chinese regime leaders, who are currently embroiled in a long-term trade conflict with the United States, one of China’s biggest economic partners.

Noteworthy is that in the NBS’s 2017 Summer Grain Production Report, data on the wheat yield for that year was recorded, while the 2018 report included only the production figures for various types of grains (including wheat) during the summer, as well as the total production of all grains in 2018. The actual reduction in wheat production from 2017 isn’t known.

While China’s summer grain production has fallen, local governments try to create the false impression of having produced an abundance of grain.

On Oct. 9, Radio Free Asia (RFA) quoted a Beijing resident called Mr. Xu as saying that “not long ago, someone told me that the local government had deceived higher authorities, claiming that they were unable to sell all their foodstuffs. After their superiors came [to inspect], the local government just moved the food from the east to the point of inspection, creating the false impression of an abundant harvest.”

Xu added: “The price of grain in Beijing is rising, it is rising quietly. … The food problem is a big issue and a very important one.”

Ms. Wang, from Xinghuo Farm, Fuyang City, Hubei Province, told RFA: “Now the costs of fertilizers, pesticides, harvesters, and so on are very expensive. Farmers risk losing money, so they are not willing to cultivate their land.”