Why Did Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Sign Food Security Agreement?

September 25, 2020 Updated: September 28, 2020

Commentary

China is facing a food shortage crisis. On Sept. 7, during the CIFTIS (China International Fair for Trade in Services) annual meeting in Beijing, a forum was held to discuss hot topics, such as maintaining the country’s food supply chain.

At this meeting, the National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration (NFSRA) signed production and marketing cooperation agreements with eight major grain-producing regions—Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, and Shandong. Meanwhile, NFSRA officials in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei signed a separate mutual aid pact over food supply.

Severe flooding, which has lasted for more than three months in southern China, triggered a substantial reduction in summer grain production. Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, the main producing areas of autumn grains, have recently experienced three consecutive typhoons that have severely affected crops, especially corn.

Because of that, Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei agreed to provide food assistance to one another in case of an emergency. However, that arrangement has locals concerned about food security.

Severe Weather Sparks Food Crisis

The northeastern provinces of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei are the well-known cornerstone of China’s food security: one-fifth of the national total grain output comes from these provinces.

From Aug. 27 to Sept. 8, typhoons Bavi, Maysak, and Haishen made direct hits on Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, with their heavy rains and high winds wreaking serious havoc on crops such as corn and rice.

According to local agricultural reports, the combination of widespread flooding as well as long-term drought in Liaoning, corn production may be reduced by 20 to 30 percent. Meanwhile, domestic corn prices, which have been rising recently, are up 20 percent from a year ago, according to a report released by the Financial Association on Sept. 10.

At the same time, China has been ramping up its U.S. corn imports, as the country faces its first real shortfall in years, Reuters has reported, and may become the world’s largest corn importer in 2020, a report published by Bloomberg on Sept. 8 says.

For the week ended Sept. 3, weekly corn exports to China were 1.137 million tonnes, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released on Sept. 11, and China booked deals to buy 1.967 million tonnes of U.S. corn in the week ended July 16, its biggest weekly total of the grain on record.

Based on domestic and foreign data, a huge corn deficiency in China exists, as well as an urgent need for imports.

However, the NFSRA issued a notice on Sept. 11, claiming that this year’s autumn grain planting area has increased steadily, and the current situation is generally normal. And if no major natural disasters occur in the coming months, this year’s autumn grain is expected to have another bumper harvest.

What Is the Reality?

Autumn grain production accounts for about three-quarters of the annual grain production in China. The severe floods in the south this year mainly occurred in the basins of the Yangtze River, Huai River, and Chao Lake, making it impossible to plant autumn grains immediately.

Take Lujiang county, southwest of Chao Lake, as an example. It’s traditionally a major grain-producing area—a CCP-proclaimed “national modern agriculture demonstration zone,” and one of the main rice-producing areas in China. However, flooding is making it difficult to plant autumn crops, while in areas where floodwaters have receded, very thick sediment remains. At this time, much effort is needed to clean up the deposited sediment, and other debris brought about by the flooding.

Under the current situation, it seems impossible to deploy the so-called immediate replanting of autumn grain as promoted by Communist Party media.

It can be seen that autumn grain can no longer be counted on from the main grain-producing areas in the Yangtze River, Huai River, and Chao Lake basins, as well as the three typhoon-wrecked northeastern provinces.

In this context, the CCP continues fabricating new lies to deceive the people.

At the CIFTIS meeting, COFCO (China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp.) pointed out that each year, China wastes more than 385.8 million tons of food in the process of storage, transportation, and processing. Because reducing waste would help ease the food reserve issue, COFCO’s remarks can be interpreted as: “There is enough food, but improper storage by the farmers have caused too much loss. Quickly turn them in and let the CCP help you store it.”

However, mindful readers may ask about the sand under the corn pile in the COFCO reserve warehouse recently exposed by the media?

Save Big Cities

Chinese media published China’s “food self-sufficiency rating” in 2019, in which Beijing had the lowest rating, followed by Shanghai, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Fujian. These provinces have to rely on other areas to ensure enough food supply to provide their population in times of crisis.

Under the current pact, Beijing has made its choice to work with the eight main grain-producing areas in the north, and signed the grain production and marketing cooperation agreement. After the recent three typhoons directly hit the three northeast provinces, Beijing signed a food security mutual aid agreement with Tianjin and Hebei.

The mutual agreement between Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei is a reminder of the tragedy that occurred during the Great Famine (from 1959 to 1961).

Chen Zhenhuan, secretary of Li Jingquan (then secretary of the Sichuan Provincial Party Committee), recalled the following. During the Great Famine, then-Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping gave Li Jingquan a rigid order. Deng said that even if there was a shortage in Sichuan’s food supply, its grain reserve had to be collected and transferred to major cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai. Chen allegedly said, “Only the people in Sichuan can die, not the people in Beijing or Shanghai ….” As a result, 10 million to 12 million people in Sichuan died of starvation, according to official figures, but some scholars believe the numbers to be significantly higher, between 40 to 50 million.

China has suffered from pandemics, floods, droughts, typhoons, and locusts simultaneously this year. And now a food shortage crisis has emerged. Once the international food supply chain is broken, China’s food security will encounter catastrophic consequences.

Huidong Zhang was a general manager at Rightway China Real Estate in Dalian, Liaoning Province. He earned a master’s degree in business administration and then worked for Dalian Heavy Industry Group Co. Ltd. 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.