, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 439-449

Effects of urbanization on arable land requirements in China, based on food consumption patterns

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Abstract

China’s urbanization has led to changes in food consumption patterns. The effects of this population shift on the limited arable land resources available have not been clearly understood. Based on food consumption data in 1982, 1992 and 2002, we evaluated the arable land requirements needed to meet the demand of Chinese food consumption patterns and the countermeasures that could mitigate the increasing pressure on this limited resource. The results indicated that processed food (including plant oil, alcohol and sugar) needed the most arable land for production, followed by livestock-based food and plant-based food, which needed the least. The arable land requirement for food consumption of urban residents was higher than that of rural residents in all 3 years, 1982, 1992 and 2002 and both decreased from 1982 to 2002. Based on the data for these years, the total arable land requirement for Chinese food consumption is projected to increase from 1982 to 2030, and then gradually decreases from 2040 to 2050. The food demand pressures put on the limited arable land resources in China is exacerbated by trends in food consumption patterns—i.e. more livestock-based and less plant-based food, and the need to improve the nutritional intake of both urban and rural populations. To alleviate the pressures, Chinese food consumption patterns should be changed so that less livestock-based and more plant-based food is consumed. Two other mitigation options are to increase the import of land-intensive food and to invest in agricultural research and development. These findings could be helpful in optimizing the interrelationships between the limited arable land resources available and food consumption patterns during the continuing rapid urbanization of China.