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China

Food

While food production rose substantially after 1949, population increases were nearly as great until the 1980s. Production of grain, the source of about 75 percent of the calories in the Chinese diet, grew at an average rate of 2.7 percent a year between 1952 and 1979, while population growth averaged almost 2 percent a year. Total grain output per capita grew from 288 kilograms a year in 1952 to 319 kilograms in 1978, an increase of only 11 percent in 26 years. In 1984, however, a remarkably good harvest produced 396 kilograms of grain per capita, an increase of 24 percent in only 6 years. In 1985 grain output fell below the peak level of 1984, to 365 kilograms per person, and recovered only partially in 1986 to 369 kilograms per capita (see table B ; Crops , ch. 6). Table B. Economic Indicators, Selected Years, 1952-86

_______________________________________________________________

Unit 1952 1957 1965 1970 1975 1980 1983 1984 1985 1986 
_______________________________________________________________

GNP1 ......... billions of 1985 33 50 65 96 126 169 210 239 268 288
 United States
 dollars2
Population ... millions 575 647 725 830 924 987 1,025 1,035 1,045
1,060
 

Per capita 1985 United 57 77 89 116 136 171 205 231 257 272
 GNP ........ States dollars3

Grain ........ millions of 164 195 195 240 285 321 387 407 379 391
 tons

Cotton ....... -do- 1.3 1.6 2.1 2.3 2.4 2.7 4.6 6.3 4.1 3.5


Crude steel .. -do- 1.3 5.3 12.2 17.8 23.9 37.1 40.0 43.5 46.8 51.9

 
Crude oil .... -do- 0.4 1.5 11.3 30.7 77.1 105.9 106.1 114.6 124.9
130.7


Coal ......... -do- 66 131 232 354 482 620 715 789 872 883

Agricultural 100 120 123 142 169 188 248 283 302 313
 production n.a. 
 index ...... 

Industrial 100 245 478 855 1,271 1,911 2,222 2,524 2,966 3,239 
 production n.a. 
 index ......

Exports ...... billions of 1985 0.8 1.6 2.2 2.3 7.3 18.3 22.2 26.1
27.4 30.9
 United States
 dollars2

Imports ...... -do- 1.1 1.5 2.0 2.3 7.5 19.5 21.4 27.4 42.3 42.9
_________________________________________________________________

 n.a.--not applicable.
1 Gross national product.
2 Converted from 1985 yuan at the average 1985 exchange rate of
US$100 = -Y293.67.
3 GNP expressed in constant United States dollars does not fully
reflect China's national economic performance because of
differences in income definitions, inaccurate prices, and exchange
rate changes unrelated to economic forces.

Sources: Based on information from State Statistical Bureau, People's Republic of China, Statistical Yearbook of China 1986, Hong Kong, 1986; and China Daily, various issues, 1987.

Other important food items that remained in short supply before the economic reforms included edible oil, sugar, and aquatic products. Production of oil-bearing crops increased at an average rate of about 2 percent a year from 1952 to 1979, and annual consumption of edible oil was less than 2 kilograms per person in 1979. Between 1978 and 1985, output grew at over 16 percent a year, and annual consumption increased to 5.1 kilograms per person. Sugar production grew at an average annual rate of 4.5 percent after 1952, but in 1979 consumption per person still was only 3.5 kilograms per year. From 1979 to 1985, sugar production grew by 10 percent a year, and the total amount of sugar available per person rose to 5.6 kilograms in 1985. Output of aquatic products rose at an average rate of only 2 percent a year between 1957 and 1978 and declined slightly in 1979; between 1979 and 1985, however, output grew at an average rate of 8.5 percent a year, and individual annual consumption rose from 3.2 kilograms to 4.9 kilograms.

Pork, eggs, and vegetables were increasingly available before the 1980s (see Animal Husbandry , ch. 6). Annual consumption of pork--the most commonly eaten meat in China--grew from 5.9 kilograms per person in 1952 to 7.5 kilograms per person in the mid-1970s. In 1979 a sharp increase in procurement prices for pork brought about a surge in supply--to 9.6 kilograms per person. Beginning in 1980, availability increased steadily, reaching 14 kilograms of pork per capita in 1985, an increase of 9 percent each year from 1978. Consumption of fresh eggs followed a similar pattern, climbing from an average of just over one kilogram per person in 1952 to almost two kilograms in 1978. The economic reforms elicited rapid increases in the supply of eggs, as they had with pork, and by 1985 consumption had more than doubled, to 5 kilograms of eggs per person a year, for an increase of over 14 percent a year.

Vegetables were the major supplement to grain in the Chinese diet and were very important nutritionally. In 1957 annual vegetable consumption per capita in Chinese cities averaged 109 kilograms and by 1981 had grown to 152 kilograms. Household survey data indicated that in 1985 vegetable consumption had leveled off, at 148 kilograms per person per year in urban areas and 131 kilograms in the countryside, as people used their higher incomes to increase their purchases of more expensive foods, such as meat, fish, and edible oil.

As of the late 1970s, famine and malnutrition were no longer major problems in China, but the average diet lacked variety and provided little more than basic nutritional requirements. Protein, in particular, was barely adequate for health maintenance. By the mid-1980s the availability of food had improved dramatically. Bustling street markets offered a good variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, and per capita consumption of high-protein foods--meat, poultry, eggs, and fish--increased by 63 percent over the 1979 level, to nearly 27 kilograms a year in 1985.

Data as of July 1987


China - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • China -Economic Context

  • China - Agriculture

  • China - Industry

  • China - Trade and Transportation

  • China - Science and Technology


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