CHARTS: There's A Vast Change Coming To The Chinese Diet

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Rapid economic growth has caused a fundamental and rapid shift in the diet of the Chinese.

And the amount eaten, the quality of the food and the composition of meals will continue to change as more people shift from crop foods to livestock-based products and away from basic staples.

This shift to a more affluent diet is adding strains to agriculture because production of livestock requires greater resources and causes more environmental damage than vegetable-based food.

These factors will start to constrain the country’s ability to grow enough food to feed the population, according to an analysis by the World Bank.

“Hence the need to understand how China’s domestic demand for and supply of food will evolve, as a basis for formulating policy,” the World Bank says in its June Economic update.

Total calorie intake per head, per day in China climbed by nearly half from 2,163 kcal in 1980 to 3,036 in 2009.

This is much faster than the world average, which grew from 2,490 kcal to 2,831 over the same time.

Calorie consumption is now roughly the same as in Japan and the Republic of Korea, but still lower than in the United States and the European Union.

Protein intake has also climbed sharply, nearly doubling from 54 grams per person per day in 1980 to 94 grams in 2009, with about three-fourths of this growth coming from livestock-based products.

Calorie intake among some high income countries, such as the United States and Japan, has declined over the last decade or so.

Forecasts by the World Bank:


China’s demand for grain is expected to grow faster than domestic production. Total demand for grain is forecast to rise from 600 million tons currently to 670 million tons in 2020 and 700 million tons in 2030.

Local grain production will grow more slowly, reaching 568 million tons by 2020 and 563 million tons by 2030. Per head grain consumption is projected to grow from 445 kg in 2012 to 479 kg in 2020 and 491 kg in 2030.

China will maintain high domestic self-sufficiency rates for rice and wheat but not feed grains.

Through 2030, self-sufficiency is predicted to stay above 99% for rice and above 97% for wheat. By contrast, that for corn is projected to decrease to 85% by 2030 from 98% in 2012.

Livestock and fishery products

China will balance domestic demand and supply of pork and it will also stay self-sufficient in poultry and eggs.

Yet self-sufficiency rates for beef, mutton and dairy products will drop sharply. Dairy imports will see quick growth and self-sufficiency will fall to 76% by 2030.

Demand for fishery and aquaculture products is expected to surge but will be largely met by increasing domestic production.

Per head consumption of aquaculture products, including fish, shrimp, crab, and shellfish, will grow from 22 kg in 2012 to 29 kg by 2020 and 35 kg by 2030.

Vegetables and fruits

China has a comparative advantage in vegetable and fruit production, which has grown steadily over the past decade.

Its output will meet its demand for both and even increase exports. While rising labor costs will reduce its advantage, the country is likely to satisfy its rising domestic demand for vegetables and fruits by further adjusting and expanding domestic production.

Production and consumption of fruits will also grow sharply, and imports and exports will increase.

After 2020, fruit consumption growth will slow, while production will maintain rapid growth, giving China net exports of 1.3 million tons by 2030.


Sugar production is expected to grow slowly against a rapid consumption increase, resulting in a bigger supply shortfall.

Production is forecast to climb from 16 million tons in 2012 to 17 million tons in 2020 and to 19 million tons in 2030.

Per capita sugar consumption is projected to increase significantly, resulting in a total demand of 20 million tons by 2020 and 23 million tons by 2030, up from 16 million tons in 2012.

By 2030, China is projected to meet 82% of its sugar demand domestically.

Oil crops

The production and demand of oil crops other than soybeans are expected to grow in parallel although China will face some domestic supply shortfall which will need to be met by imports.

Total production of oil crops is expected to rise from 8.7 million tons in 2012 to 10.2 million tons in 2020 and 10.8 million tons in 2030.

Imports are predicted to increase from 1.4 million tons in 2012 to 2.0 million tons in 2020 and 2.4 million tons in 2030. China’s self-sufficiency rate in oil crops will decline from 86% in 2012 to 82 percent in 2030.


Cotton demand has been growing much faster than production with much of the demand for production of exported clothing. Supply continues to fall short of growing demand.

Total demand is expected to increase from 8 million tons in 2012 to 10 million tons in 2020 and to nearly 13 million tons in 2030.

Domestic cotton production and imports in 2020 are both expected to be smaller than in 2012, mainly because of government purchasing and stockpiling of cotton in 2012, which contributed to higher prices, higher domestic production, and strong import growth.

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