Noodles at any cost: food self-sufficiency and natural hazards in China

Produced as part of the Adaptation to climate change and human development CCCEP research programme theme

Abstract of Working Paper 30

China’s role on the global grain market is expected to increase as the demand for food and feed grows, both within and outside the country. This role could also be affected by unexpected crop failures caused by natural hazards.

This paper uses agricultural production (rice, wheat, maize, tubers, soybeans and other grains) and natural hazards data (floods and droughts) for 31 provinces in China, for the period 1995-2008, to examine the self-sufficiency of China’s domestic cereal harvest.

We aim to answer three questions:

  1. Is the size of China’s current grain stock adequate to buffer for seasonal crop failures of the same magnitude as past events?
  2. Does producing a range of crops in one province reduce the risk of natural hazards causing production shocks?
  3. Which regions are less likely to be affected by natural hazards and should therefore be set aside as agricultural land in order to meet future food self-sufficiency targets?

The results show that in a “theoretical worst-case scenario”, China’s cereal harvest may drop by 140 Mt. Therefore, their current grain stock of 120-200 Mt is sufficient to buffer China’s cereal supplies against one year of production problems.

Provinces with high crop diversity during 1995-2008 were less affected by floods and more affected by droughts.

Food self-sufficiency was highest in moderately diverse provinces.

In terms of those regions least affected by natural hazards, unsurprisingly, droughts had higher impacts in the north, while floods and droughts had more equal impacts in the south. Droughts had increasing trends in two-thirds of the country.