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In-depth Analyses
What was China's food balance in 1996?
This is an in-depth analysis of China's food system, based on the FAO's food balance sheet for 1996 - the most recent year available at the time of this writing (see Table 1).  I have also analyzed how China's grain supply changed between 1964-1966 and 1994-1996 (see the analysis in this application). FAO Food Balance Sheet for China, 1996
Table 1
Supply According to FAO estimates, China had a total domestic cereal production of 388 million tons in 1996. This included the production of 110.6 million tons of wheat, 131.4 million tons of rice (in milled equivalent), 127.9 million tons of maize, and 18.2 million tons of other cereals, such as rye, oats, millet, sorghum. In that year, China also imported significant amounts of wheat and maize. Of course, there were also some cereal exports and imports. In 1996 China had net-imports of 16.5 million tons of cereals (including 8.4 million tons of wheat and 6.2 million tons of other cereals). China removed almost 7 million tons of cereals (primarily maize) from stocks. On balance China had a domestic cereal supply of 411.5 million tons, including almost 120 million tons of wheat, 131.9 million tons of rice, and 139.3 million tons of maize. 
Utilization Not all of this domestic supply was used for direct human consumption. For instance, most of the maize was used as animal feed - almost 109.5 million tons, or 78.6% of the total domestic maize supply. However, it may not be so well known that China also used 4 million tons of wheat and 7.5 million tons of rice as animal feed, which was equivalent to 3.3% of the domestic wheat and 5.7% of the domestic rice supply. This (increasing) utilization of wheat and rice in livestock production is a growing concern among China's leaders. The grain resource could be used more efficiently if all the rice and wheat were available for direct human consumption, but the growing demand for meat makes it profitable to use some (low quality) rice and wheat for livestock production. There are also significant losses in China's grain supply system. The FAO estimates that China wasted 23.1 million tons of its domestic cereal supply, including 6.3 million tons of rice, 5.1 million tons of wheat, and 10.8 million tons of maize. The total cereal supply available for food was only 237.4 million tons (or 57.7% of the total domestic supply). In other words, more than 40% of all the grain that was available in China in 1996 was not directly used for food; some 129.6 million tons were used as animal feed, and some 44.5 million tons were used for seed, processing, and other uses, or were wasted.
Per capita
The 237.4 million tons of cereals available for direct human consumption in 1996 were equivalent to 192.7 kg of cereals per person per year, including 84.3 kg of wheat and 92.4 kg of rice. On average, these cereals provided each person with 1,671 kcal, 36.8 g of protein and 5.1 g of fat on a daily basis. This was equivalent to 58.8% of the per capita calorie supply, 48.4% of the per capita protein supply and 7.7% of the per capita fat supply. The data show that cereals, primarily wheat and rice, are still the principal source of China's food calorie and protein supply.
Starchy Roots
Supply In 1996 China had a total root production of 182.1 million tons, including 125 million tons of sweet potatoes, the remainder comprised other potatoes, cassava, and other roots. There were also 1.9 million tons of net-imports. The total domestic supply of starchy roots was almost 184 million tons.
Utilization Starchy roots, such as potatoes, were an important commodity in China's food supply in the 1950s and 1960s. This is no longer the case. In 1996, 81.8 million tons, or 44.5% of the total domestic supply, were used as animal feed.  Only 78.1 million tons were used for direct human consumption.
Per capita
On average, each person in China had an annual supply of 63.4 kg of starchy roots, equivalent to 161 kcal of food energy, 2 g of protein, and 0.4 g of fat per day. Only 5.7% of the total food calorie supply (which was on average 2,844 in 1996) came from starchy roots.
Vegetable Oils
Supply In 1996 China produced almost 7 million tons of vegetable oils, including 2.1 million tons of rape and mustard seed oil, 1.4 million tons of soybean oil, and 1.3 million tons of groundnut oil. In addition, the country also had net imports of 1.1 million tons of soybean oil and 985,000 tons of palm oil so that the domestic supply of vegetable oils was almost 9.4 million tons (compared with 2.2 million tons in 1974-1976).
Utilization About two-thirds of the oil  - 6.3 million tons - was used for food.
Per capita
Vegetable oils contributed 123 kcal (or 4.3%) to the average daily calorie supply per person. They also supplied 13.9 g of fat per person per day - equivalent to 21.1% of the total per capita fat supply.
Supply Vegetables are an (increasingly) important commodity in China. In 1996, farmers produced 199.6 million tons of vegetables (compared with just 41.6 million tons in 1974-1976). Some 2.8 million tons were exported, so that the total domestic supply was 197 million tons.
Utilization Most of the vegetables (180 million tons) were used for direct human consumption. However, there were significant losses of 15.4 million tons (or 7.8% of the domestic supply). One might wrongly conclude that these losses due to waste are exceptionally high; in fact, they are typical for this commodity. In developed countries, on average, wastes of vegetables are even higher.
Per capita
Vegetables contributed 106 kcal (or 3.7%) to the daily per capita diet. Although this is a small contribution in terms of food energy, vegetables also supply essential vitamins and minerals.
Supply There is also a rapid increase in the production of fruits. In 1996 China produced 76.4 million tons, up from only 13.1 million tons in 1974-1976. Both imports and exports of fruits were in the order of 1.2 million tons. The total domestic supply remained almost unchanged at 76.5 million tons.
Utilization Except for some waste (6.4 million tons) and a little processing (2 million tons), most fruits (66.6 million tons) were available for direct human consumption.
Per capita
The annual per capita supply of 54.1 kg of fruits was equivalent to 47 kcal per day.
Alcoholic Beverages
Supply It is probably an indicator of growing wealth that China is now producing substantially higher amounts of alcoholic beverages than in past decades. For instance, in 1974-1976, China produced some 2.5 million tons of alcoholic beverages (mostly beer); in 1996 it produced more than 10 times as much, or 28.7 million tons (including 412,000 tons of wine). In 1996 China was also a net importer of alcoholic beverages (53,000 tons).
Utilization As can be expected, almost all the alcoholic beverage supply was used for direct human consumption, so that the country had an overall supply of 28.7 million tons.
Per capita
For each person in China (babies and grandmothers included) there was, on average, an annual supply of 23.3 kg of alcoholic beverages. These drinks contributed 86 kcal (or 3%) to the daily food energy supply. 
Supply There is great confusion concerning the amount of meat that is really produced (and consumed) in China. Chinese statistics from different sources (such as from household surveys and from production statistics) are contradictory. The following estimate from the FAO is probably the most realistic. The FAO estimated that China produced some 51.5 million tons of meat in 1996. This included some 33.9 million tons of pork, 10.6 million tons of poultry, and 7.1 million tons of other meat (such as beef, veal, mutton, and goat, and other meat). The FAO also believes that China was a net importer of meat: they estimated net imports of 712,000 tons of meat, primarily pork and poultry.
Utilization Basically all the meat produced and imported was available for direct human consumption. (I am somewhat skeptical that this is correct. If one takes into account the lack of cooled trains and trucks in China I am surprised that FAO did not have any estimates on the waste of meat).
Per capita
If these FAO estimates are correct, then in 1996 every person in China, on average, was supplied with 41.2 kg of meat. This was equivalent to 335 kcal, 13.1 g of protein and 30.9 g of fat per person per day. Meat thus contributed almost 12% of the calories, more than 17% of the protein, and 47% of the per capita fat supply.
Fish and Seafood
Supply In 1996, 25.5 million tons of fish and seafood were produced in China. Some 10.6 million tons were freshwater fish. Fish imports were higher then exports by some 4.5 million tons. The total domestic supply was about 30 million tons.
Utilization Some 6.8 million tons of these fish (mainly pelagic fish) were used as animal feed, the rest (23.4 million tons) was available for human consumption.
Per capita
The annual per capita fish supply in China was 19 kg, which is equivalent to 30 kcal, 4.9 g of protein, and 0.9 g of fat per day. In 1974-1976 the annual per capita fish supply was only 5.1 kg.
Other Commodities (Pulses, Milk, Eggs)
Supply We cannot discuss all commodities in the 1996 FAO food balance sheet for China. However, another three commodities - pulses, milk, and eggs - should be mentioned.
In 1996, China produced only 4.9 million tons of pulses, compared with 6.3 million tons in 1974-1976. The production of milk (excluding butter), however, increased from 2.4 million tons in 1974-1976 to 10.2 million tons. In 1996, China also produced 19.9 million tons of eggs, compared with 2.3 million tons in 1974-1976.
Utilization Almost half of the production of pulses in 1996 was used for animal feed (2.1 million tons). Most of the milk and eggs produced were available for direct human consumption (except 987 tons of milk that were used as animal feed and 1 million tons of eggs lost due to waste).
Per capita
Eggs and milk together contributed some 75 kcal (or 2.6%) to the daily per capita supply; pulses contributed only 16 kcal.
Finally, it should be mentioned that only 17% of the daily calories and just 33% of the protein in 1996 came from animal products.
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Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)  - Copyright 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright 1999 by IIASA.)