China faces food security challenge

Updated 2017-09-22 11:30:53 CGTN

China's food consumption has transformed, from merely sitting hunger to eating for enjoyment.

However, against this backdrop and with the country now accounting for one quarter of the world's population, food security is a growing challenge.

CGTN reporters Han Bin and Greg Navarro spoke to 76-year old Ma Zhengshan and his wife Ma Meihua, who both still work on their plot on the high loess plateau in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Ample land key to sufficient food supply

Over the decades, soil deterioration and desertification have threatened the crops of Ningxia, formerly known as the breadbasket of western China. As such, corn and beans now barely yield enough to harvest.

"The land is a farmer's rice bowl. There is no food without land. The arable land will provide food for the whole family for the whole year," Ma says.

He attributes factors like human activities and nature's reactions for having diminished the arable land available.

While many have given up farming and left their land behind, Ma says there will always be a need for farmers "as long as people need to eat."

Eating for enjoyment

One person who has moved out of the village is Ma's son, Ma Xiaolong, who now works as a head chef at a restaurant in a city some 400 kilometers away.

He believes in eating well, and in eating for enjoyment – not just survival.

"Today's customers have high demands for food quality, nutrition and diversity," Xiaolong says, adding that Chinese people in the Northwest prefer spicy food, with good color, taste and flavor.

Xiaolong, having come from a poor background, also recognizes that his profession serves as a means to prevent hunger. As such, food can also be said to be related to wealth.

"I like cooking fish, which is a symbol of wealth and auspiciousness. I had never eaten a fish before I left the village. It's so delicious," Xiaolong says.

China must produce more on less farmland

Across China, one in every 30 people still lives below the poverty line.

Xiaolong hopes his children will never worry about finding food to eat.

"I know my sons or grandsons all have their own priorities other than being farmers," he says. "The future of their lives and our farmland is very hard to predict."

Xiaolong's father, Ma, is proud that China has fed its people almost entirely on its own. Going forward, however, China must seek to produce more on less farmland, or rely on an unpredictable food market abroad.

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