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Edited by Jonathan Crush, Bruce Frayne and Gareth Haysom
Hualou Long, Yansui Liu and Tingting Li
This chapter analyses the changes of China’s farmland use level (FUL) and aims to develop a ‘farmland–grain elasticity coefficient’ (FGEC) in order to reveal the interaction between changes in use of farmland and security of grain production. The serious losses of farmland since 1978 have led to great pressure on grain production security, but increasing investments in farmland quality and human incentives have mitigated this pressure to some extent. FUL at the national level has increased due to the rapid economic development since 1978. The path of this rapid improvement shows a gradient declining from southeast coastal China to inland China with further economic development. However, the increases to the FUL may not be maintained because of the conversion of farmland and transfer of farm workers to non-agricultural activities. Agricultural structural adjustments and ongoing improvements of FUL may not always bring about sustainable and steady growth in grain outputs. In general, farmland areas and human investments interact with each other to influence grain production. At the beginning of Chinese economic reform, due to the weak agricultural base, improvements in the artificial ‘quality’ of farmlands had great positive effects on maintaining food security. Along with economic development and improvements in the agricultural base, the increase of labour investment will play only a weak role in increasing grain production and in maintaining food security, without technological breakthroughs in all aspects of agricultural production. Therefore, considering the law of diminishing marginal utility, the available area of farmland will play a key role in maintaining the security of grain production. Based on the analyses of changing agricultural production policies, and the trends and challenges of China’s agricultural production, the authors argue that both protecting farmland from a transformation to other land use types, and ensuring its effective management constitute key solutions for maintaining grain production security in China.
Lack of progress in the Doha Round of trade negotiations has not been entirely due to difficulties over agricultural issues. Nevertheless, as in the Uruguay Round, they have remained a substantial obstacle to agreement. One part of the story is weaker impetus both from the US administration and agribusiness interests for agricultural trade liberalisation. However, the European Union (EU) has also proved resistant to change, particularly over market access and the maintenance of high tariff barriers. There is an underlying political dynamic to this resistance. The EU has relatively large numbers of marginal farmers who would find it difficult to compete on world markets without protection – often located in peripheral regions with broader economic problems that are also either politically marginal or are strongly represented within a ruling party. It is hence difficult to suggest policies that might harm their interests. Interests of consumers and taxpayers are more diffuse compared with these concentrated interests, while input industries lend support to subsidies. Indeed, the latest EU reform proposals for agriculture envisage reducing the subsidy for more competitive farmers, confirming that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is conceived of primarily as a social policy, albeit a very inefficient one in meeting its objectives. France has remained a resolute defender of the CAP, although in the longer run budgetary pressures could shift its position. However, it has sought with some success to revitalise its defence of the CAP through a discourse of food security, which has some credibility given structural shifts in the global balance of supply and demand and long-term threats posed by climate change. Nevertheless, a policy of protection and subsidisation is not an effective answer to these challenges.