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Nongguan force in China hopes to limit grain trade

Roy Graber: The Chinese government has formed a Nongguan force, with the mission of making farmers in China plant more feed grain crops.

Roy Graber Headshot
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China has a history as a key importer of U.S. feed grains like corn and soybeans, but if the Chinese government has its way, that will someday no longer be the case.

While speaking during the World Pork Expo on June 8 in Des Moines, Iowa, Richard Herzfelder, senior consultant, Gira Food, talked about how farmers are being forced to uproot cash crops and start growing grain crops that may not be as profitable.

It’s all part of President Xi Jinping’s government as it is “doubling down on national security and what they call self-sufficiency,” said Herzfelder.

And that includes agriculture, and food security is a constant thing, he said.

While it might seem implausible for China to produce all of the food and feed it needs for domestic production, that is certainly an initiative.

“Our thinking was that China cannot feed all those pigs without imported soybeans. Now they’re trying to get rid of soybean imports and they’re serious about it,” said Herzfelder. “One of the reasons you can tell they are serious about this is they’ve established something called the Nongguan.”

Richard HerzfelderRichard HerzfelderRoy Graber

The Nongguan, as Herzefelder described it, is a rural enforcement group, which goes onto farms and forces the producers to dig out cash crops and plant grains. I didn’t think they could increase soybean production significantly, but they’re forcing it,” he said.

“These guys go out, and what they’re doing is something I haven’t seen in China for 50 years, since the Mao (Zedong) years. They’re strongly establishing food security. What that means is that China must be able to survive without food imports. Grain is considered vital.

While more feed grains being grown in China could be bad news for grain exporters, Herzfelder said it has the potential to be even worse for Chinese farmers. He said when farmers there “stopped growing grains and started growing cash crops,” it lifted millions of people out of poverty.

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