China's private firms are pushing to invest in farms overseas, but policy debates over whether this is in China's strategic interest have so far stopped the trend becoming an explicit government policy, a senior official said on Friday.
As Beijing scrambles to feed its galloping economy, it has already scoured the world for mining and logging concessions. Now it is turning to crops to feed its people and industries. Chinese enterprises are snapping up vast tracts of land abroad and forging contract farming deals.
The worldwide food shortage has spurred enthusiasm among Chinese enterprises to invest in overseas agriculture sectors. South America and Russia are likely to become the new destinations for agricultural investments from China.
With their huge populations, China and India exert an unparalleled force on world food markets. They are looking abroad as it becomes more difficult for them to be self-sufficient -- and the increasing demand often has disastrous consequences across the globe.
Liu Jianjun, a former Chinese government official who runs the Baoding-Africa business council, has contracts to farm 10,000 acres in Uganda, to build a cornflour processing factory in Kenya and for a farm project in the Ivory Coast.
A military-driven Chinese hybrid rice-for-opium crop-substitution program in the northern part of Myanmar's Shan state has resulted in four consecutive years of poor harvests and driven many ethnic-minority farmers into heavy debt or out of rice farming altogether.