How Sustainable Is China's Agriculture?

One of the most challenging problems in China’s agriculture has always been the lack of arable land. China has less than 9% of world’s arable land, but it has to produce food and other agricultural products for 22% of the world’s population. On a per capita land basis, its arable land is just over one mu or 0.0827 hectares (1 mu = 0.067 ha), about one third of the world’s average. More than 40% of the world’s peasants work on this land area making the farm size per household very small, averaging less that 0.2 ha. In some more densely populated provinces, each household has less than 0.1 ha. In addition to very limited land, China also has very little water resources, only 6% of the world’s water supply and only 25% of the world’s average on a per capita basis. With a large population to feed and cloth, the limited arable land and scarce water resources place severe constraints on agricultural production. In China, long-term sustainability in agriculture depends on whether arable land and water available to agriculture can be maintained at least at current levels, and whether yields per cultivated area can increase. Other important factors related to long-term sustainability in agriculture are by what methods arable land and other agricultural inputs are allocated among different kinds of agricultural production.


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