Mark Collins – Feeding the Dragon’s Hungry Belly…

…doesn’t come cheap:

Why Is China Spending $43 Billion for a Farming Company?
The biggest overseas purchase in Chinese history is meant to ensure the world’s largest country can keep feeding its people.

China’s biggest-ever overseas acquisition, announced this month, isn’t about gobbling up resources to feed its industrial maw, broadening its financial leverage, or enhancing its strategic position. Rather, the $43 billion bid for Swiss agricultural company Syngenta is about something a lot more basic and a lot more important: ensuring that its farms will be able to produce enough food to keep pace with the country’s still-growing population, already the world’s largest.

Beijing today faces a variation of the dilemma that has bedeviled leaders there for thousands of years: how to feed so many people with so little arable land. China today accounts for about 19 percent of the global population, yet has just 8 percent of its arable land. And unlike other countries with growing populations, there’s no land left to till; indeed, given years of chemical abuse in the countryside and industrial pollution that sowed heavy metals through rice paddies, China’s available farmland is actually shrinking.

With the population set to keep growing from 1.3 billion today to 1.4 billion or more by 2030, and with demand for cereal grains rising as the population eats ever more beef and pork, the country needs a quantum leap in agricultural productivity if it is going to feed its population in a generation’s time. Food shortages, or spiking prices for food, have been a recipe for unrest, rebellion, and imperial downfall in China for hundreds of years. Food security, the ability to ensure ample and affordable supplies of food for all, is a political headache for leaders in Beijing who are all too aware that staying in power means keeping rice bowls filled. The Syngenta deal — which is meant to keep Chinese farms humming — could be part of the solution…

One wonders if there are any takeover candidates in Canada.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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