China’s fast-growing demand for agricultural products will make it the world’s top importer of farm commodities within 5 to 10 years, according to a Reuters report. In 2011, China moved ahead of Mexico and Canada as the United States' number one market for U.S. agricultural goods.

China will be looking at foreign markets for agriculture imports as its domestic farming production is limited by small-scale operations and a lack of robust science and technology. Due to increasing prosperity among the Chinese population, the next 10 years is expected to be a period of fast growth in China's consumption of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

The country already leads in production and consumption of pork and is the world’s top importer of soy and cotton. It also is the second largest consumer of corn. However, constraints on production have resulted in the nation’s agricultural output not keeping pace with demand. China has already increased its imports of corn and pork in 2011.

To cope with the country's fast-growing demand for agricultural products, China’s state-run COFCO Co. Ltd., will spend more than $10 billion on overseas mergers and acquisitions in the next five years, the China Daily reported recently.

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, U.S. pork exports to China continued to surge in 2011. Through August, this year’s volume is up 336 percent to 188,622 metric tons. While China is currently 98 percent self-sufficient in pork production, even a small increase in U.S. exports to that market would greatly benefit producers.

If China decides to import just an additional 1 percent of its total pork annual consumption, it could mean an additional 500,000 metric tons of U.S. pork exports. Valued at $1 billion that export increase could create 13,000 direct pork industry jobs, according to analysis by Dermot Hayes, Iowa State University economist.

Meanwhile, U.S. legislators are taking steps to reduce China's $273 billion trade surplus last year and pressing Obama Administration officials to take action. The White House has kept its distance from a bill passed in the Senate which opponents warn could set off a trade war with the Chinese.

Source: Reuters