Food Demand In China Adds Up To Stunning Numbers

Nebraska Notebook

If you're a numbers person—and based on past academic performance I'm not one—you have to be fascinated with China. The numbers are staggering.

Published on: February 8, 2013

As the Chinese economy continues to expand, major opportunities exist for American businesses. Over the past few years, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Greg Ibach, Nebraska Department of Agriculture director, have led several successful trade missions to China, in the process signing marketing deals for Nebraska commodities, including beef and dry edible beans.

Nebraska has even opened a trade office in Shanghai, China.

I bring this up, not just for the numbers, but because former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. will in a few days be the featured speaker at the Governor's Ag Conference in Kearney.

Paulson founded the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago. It is an institute that promotes sustainable growth economic growth and a cleaner environment across the world, and much of its focus is on the link between the United States and China.

Heineman and Paulson struck up a friendship centered in part on their mutual interest in market development in China. The governor late last year sent Ibach to Beijing, China, to represent the state at a workshop on agriculture and bioenergy. Ibach now serves as an advisor on the U.S.-China Agricultural Investment Experts Group, which is part of Paulson's institute.

Back to the numbers. While browsing for information on the world's most populous country, I came across these figures from another U.S. organization, the Hale Group. The Hale Group is an international consulting enterprise, advising food businesses on growth opportunities in China. It works with Chinese counterparts to find and develop new markets.

From its website, the Hale Group offers the following numbers to demonstrate how important China is to the food and agriculture sectors in the United States and other nations:

China is home to 1.34 billion people.

Twenty million rural people in China move to urban areas every year. China's goal is to move and "re-house" 300 million in 15 years. That's the total population of the United State. This is like building a New York metro area or two times the Chicago metro area each year.

Currently 50% of the population is urban and, in 15 years, it will be more than 70%.

Each year, China spends about 9% of gross national product, or $500 billion, on infrastructure investment.

Currently, China has more than 160 cities with a population of more than 1 million. In 2025, it will have 219 cities of more than 1 million and 24 of more than 5 million.

It's expected that the international grocery retail chains will open 2,700 new stores over the next 4 years in China.

The Chinese grocery market is the largest in the world, at $970 billion in 2011, and its growing at 10% or more a year. By 2015, the grocery market is expected to be $1.5 trillion, one-third larger than the U.S. grocery market.

A new KFC is opened every 13 hours.

The average Chinese person is eating four times as much meat and seven times as much dairy product as they were 30 years ago.

China's direct foreign investment in Brazil in 2011 amounted to $12 billion with emphasis on infrastructure to move food commodities.

At the same time, Chinese leaders face a balancing act due to rising public expectations, environmental issues in many parts of the country and, at present, economic growth that has "slowed" to about 7.5% per year. In the U.S., we're still hovering around a measly 1.5%.

So, in China, numbers do mean a lot to the United States and Nebraska.