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China growing into major importer

China will become the world’s top importer of agricultural products within five to 10 years due to limited arable land and “relatively weak” agricultural technologies, the official China News Agency reported over the weekend, citing a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Cheng Guoqiang, speaking at the Beijing Forum, said that China’s per-capita farm land is less than 40% of the world’s average, the news agency reported.

China is now the world’s largest importer of soybeans and cotton, a major importer of sugar and it is becoming a key player in global corn trade as incomes increase and people incorporate more meat into their diets.

Cheng described importing soybeans is “inevitable,” according to a separate report posted Sunday on the Beijing Forum’s official website.

Soybean imports started to soar shortly after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and reached a record 54.8 million metric tons, or around 80% of domestic consumption, last year.

China became a net importer of corn, used mainly in animal feed, last year after 14 years of self-sufficiency. Imports are expected to reach 5 million tons in the marketing year that started Oct. 1, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Center.

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