Mass Production: Shipments and Dependency

By Matthew McCoy

China is well on its way to becoming the world’s economic leader.  China’s low production costs push it far above most other competitors.  It, however, has become dependent on the United States.

Recently, the talk about pigs in China has grown throughout the press.  The United States has shipped over one million tons of corn to China in the past few months.  China relies on America and South America to supply its soybean and corn needs in order to produce feed for their rising pig production.

This certainly sounds great, right?  No.  This dependency may send the world’s economy into a tailspin.  Chinese pig production is dependent on the American produce supply.  Land in China is being cleared for pig farms while land in South America, like the small farmers land, is being taken to mass produce corn and soybean on these huge plantations, removing the land for distinct produce.  China would lose all of its farms to industrial pig farms and become completely dependent on the United States for importing their feed.

In a recent New York Times article, China Frets Over Coming Pork Shortage, the issues of the nations dependency among each other is becoming apparent.  The United States is experiencing a drought and struggling to meet corn and soybean demand from China and domestcially.  The Chinese government has kept a reserve of excess animals and frozen meat in case a pork inflation ever occurred.  With the prices of corn and soy increasing, China’s small time pork farmers cannot compete with the raised prices of raising livestock.  China is on its way to a huge food inflation in the meat industry.

With the United States and China dependent on each other for the supply and demand of corn and soy, if either nation stops, the economy will take a huge hit.  The United States wants to increase grain output to try and supply what is needed for China.  China is in the same boat.  They are creating more and more pig farms in order to produce more pork for their massive population.  China has had some issues with the quality of its pork.  China is trying to produce as much pork as it can at a cheap price, so sometimes corners have to be cut.  This is where the concern comes in.  What happens if the quality of the pork becomes too low and dangerous for consumption? What happens if the pig farms are no longer capable of sustaining the demand for pork?  Disaster.  If the pig farms in China fail, the United Sates and South America will have a huge excess of soybean and corn that they would have nothing to do with.  The economy would take a hit because there would no longer be any exporting or importing in the United States, South America,  or China, and the demand would be zero.

So then what happens?  Both China and the United States would either have to work together to solve their problems or work separately to solve their own problems.  Either solution is not a good one.  Some of this could be too far to believe, but it is a possibility.

This all can be prevented by limiting the production of corn and soybeans in the United States and in South America.  Allow the small farmers and food systems to continue growing and prosper.  We cannot get rid of them.  In China, pork is seen as a sign of wealth.  Everyone wants to have pork.  That is fine.  Allow them to have pork, yet find a better, more sustainable way of raising the pigs in China.  Find a way to obtain all of the corn and soybean needed so that South America and the United States won’t depend on China for their shipments to go to.

Matthew McCoy is a first-year student from Richmond, Virginia majoring in Biological Engineering. He is a part of the dive team at Cornell and enjoys working on older cars.

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