The world food market was shaken by the decision of the Russians in June, when they decided to leave the grain agreement. Moscow’s move threatened that the world market price of various crops and fertilizers would jump and endanger countries with unstable supply. In China in recent years, as a result of the coronavirus epidemic and climate change, securing the food supply of the 1.4 billion population has received special attention from the political leadership.
However, Beijing did not act drastically following Moscow’s decision, even though China was one of Ukraine’s largest trading partners before.
Both Russia and Ukraine were among the largest global food exporters before the war, and Moscow also had a great impact on international agricultural production with the production of potassium-based fertilizers. At the beginning of the war, with the help of a grain agreement concluded with the intervention of Turkey and the UN Ukraine was able to continue delivering its products to a total of 45 countries. A total of 33 million tons of grain were sold in one year, of which China bought up a total of 8 million tons.
History has proven conflict produces no winners, pic.twitter.com/r5p7N8JCgb
— UN (News) September 20, 2023
However, although this seems like a huge amount, it is dwarfed by China’s annual grain production, which has been over 650 million tons per year for years. In addition, they also import and export in large quantities, the explanation for this is simple: there is an oversupply of certain types of grain in China, while in other cases the deficit must be made up. Regardless, it would have been in Beijing’s interest to restart the Black Sea grain trade. China, on the other hand, has only taken modest steps to restore trade.
In Beijing, they have been working on a large-scale plan for a long time, due to which Ukraine will become irrelevant from China’s point of view.
China seeks to rely more on its own production, this is the first element of the five-step vision. Chinese President Xi Jinping called the provision of supplies one of the most important tasks, so plans were pushed across the country to boost agricultural production. For this, significant technological investments were made, which contributed to efficiency, so production increased. And thirdly, a campaign against waste was launched, as a result of which consumption also decreased. The fourth element of the idea is that within the framework of the Belt and Road program, Beijing can diversify its supplies, so that it does not depend on supplies from a single country. As a last step, China will reduce its grain purchases from Ukraine, instead, Kazakhstan and Russia will help the country with ever-increasing amounts. For this reason, even though China was one of Ukraine’s biggest buyers, it is believed that Beijing will not really take serious steps to help Kiev.
The cover image is an illustration. Cover image source: Ali Atmaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images