Chinese media reported Feb. 26 2012 that ongoing drought in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang has damaged farmland. In recent years, China has worked to convert the province into a major agricultural area and give it a key role in the country’s food security. However, population growth, rapid urbanization and environmental degradation will continue to challenge China’s traditional grain centers’ ability to meet demand, so Beijing increasingly will depend on Heilongjiang to make up the difference. As that dependence grows, and as Heilongjiang’s linkages to the national grain market multiply, the consequences of drought there will become far more widespread.
Ongoing drought in Heilongjiang province has harmed 1,000 acres of farmland, Chinese state media reported Feb. 26. The announcement follows reports Feb. 9 and 18 that Heilongjiang has experienced its lowest precipitation in 45 years, with snowfall 76 percent below average. While previous reports alerted Heilongjiang officials to an elevated risk of forest fires throughout northeastern China, the new report is the first indication of drought damage to cropland.
Heilongjiang plays a unique and increasingly central role in China’s agriculture sector. While China’s traditional grain-producing regions rely primarily on small, family-owned farm plots, Heilongjiang represents an experiment in centralized, modern industrial agriculture. Building an integrated national grain market with Heilongjiang at the center provides China with a buffer grain supply to help stabilize food prices. Between 2007 and 2010, the province’s yearly grain output rose from 34.5 million metric tons to 55.7 million metric tons. Heilongjiang now provides 26.5 percent of China’s spring wheat, more than 30 percent of its domestic soybeans and nearly 12 percent of its corn.
China has in recent years begun purchasing farmland throughout Latin America, Australia and East Africa. These farms, like Heilongjiang, would come under direct control of Chinese state-owned farming companies with very little of their output left to the foreign country itself.
However, as China’s population and consumption levels rise, this strategy becoming increasingly integral to Beijing’s efforts to meet basic food demand. Given the new importance of Heilongjiang’s agricultural sector, China can be expected to work assiduously to protect the province.
Title: Heilongjiang and China’s Food Security
Publication: Global Intelligence
Date: March 5 2012
Faculty Evaluator: Lisa Pollack, Sonoma State University
Student Researcher: Glenn Wallace, Sonoma State University