Everyone knows that China exports zillions of gadgets and trinkets every year and benefits from this huge trade surplus, but China isn't self-sufficient. China imports vast quantities of oil and natural gas over the ocean and also suffers a staggering food deficit.

Structurally, China is at a huge disadvantage as it accounts for 20% of the world's population, but only 7% of arable land. Compare that with Brazil which has the reverse of those ratios. What that does for a country like China is to incentivise the adoption of technification. Let's look at their porcine market, which represents 50% of global production and consumption. In China, to slaughter roughly 600 mn pigs per year, which is about six times the demand in the US, they have a breeding herd of about 50 mn animals. In the US, the comparable number is only about 6 mn so there is a huge productivity lag. Owing to its structural disadvantages, China is much more focused on increasing efficiency. For that, it needs to accelerate technification. So, we're seeing a whole series of government incentives at a national level, a provincial level and a local level, focusing on the need to move toward integrated pork production because that's a key way to optimise total economics, both in terms of pig production, slaughtering, processing and also actually taking the pork out into the marketplace.

Using Wikipedia for a source here's a table I made of the ten most populous countries and their arable land to population ratio (both as a percentage of the world's total).

arable land.jpg

The bimodal distribution is surprising to me... it's as if food self-sufficiency plays no role in limiting population. I wonder if this is a modern phenomena or has held true throughout history?

Also interesting is that Russia has a huge reserve of arable land to go along with its huge reserve of energy resources. Given their proximity to China, I wonder if Russia be able to hold on to their territory as their population shrinks? Russia's land isn't all of high quality, but there's a lot of it.

(HT: Via Meadia.)

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