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China’s uncertain wheat harvest engenders fear for global economy

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Deluges and strict lockdowns in China have disrupted farming in a way that country’s winter wheat harvest next month remains one of the big uncertainties in a global economy that is already struggling with high commodity prices.

If the Chinese harvest is bad in the coming weeks, it could drive food prices up further, compounding hunger and poverty in the world’s poorest countries, reported the New York Times.

Flood last autumn in China has left the soil waterlogged. The wheat due to this reason is not able to take root easily. In addition to this, Ren Ruixia, a 45-year-old farmhand said that the coronavirus lockdowns imposed by the Chinese government have also delayed the arrival of fertilizers.

This adequacy of food supplies has long been a top issue in China. The legacy of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), was marred by disastrous agricultural experiments that led to tens of millions of people dying of famine in the early 1960s. Many stern rules wreaked havoc in China. One of them was maintaining the national target for acres under cultivation.

Rules required that a large share of the country’s acreage, 463,000 square miles, larger than Texas, be farmed. Rural villages are sometimes bulldozed to maintain the national target for acres under cultivation.

Joseph W. Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington said, “China has a sizable stockpile of wheat for emergencies. But some of the wheat may be fit only for animal consumption given the poor storage.”

To add fuel to fire, the situation in Jilin Province which saw stern COVID lockdowns also worsened. Many families were barred from leaving their apartments to go grocery shopping. They have struggled to find enough food. This nervousness by China about its food stocks could ripple through the global supply chain, as per the media outlet.

China has the world’s largest foreign currency reserves, so it has the ability to buy as much wheat as it needs in world markets. But doing so could push the price of wheat even higher, making it unaffordable in many poor countries.

Another reason for the food crisis is the war in Eastern Europe. The blockade on ports in Ukraine, a leading grain exporter long known as Europe’s breadbasket, is raising grave concerns over a “global hunger crisis”.

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