The Yangtze River basin accounts for 70 percent of the country’s rice production, and the Chinese brokerage firm Shenwan Hongyuan estimated the floods could cause the country to lose 5 percent of its rice production compared to last year. Yet the total damage could be much worse, as heavy rainfall is expected to continue. The flooding is also affecting vital crops such as grain.
Food prices have increased by 10 percent compared to a year ago, with the price of corn 20 percent higher and the price of soybeans up by 30 percent year-on-year. Corn feeds China’s growing pig population, which is recovering from the African Swine Flu, a fatal disease that killed 40 percent of the country’s pig population last year. The floods have also spawned dozens of new cases of the disease, which is fatal for pigs. Corn crops also fell victim to an intense infestation of Fall Armyworm, a type of moth, in June, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
In another sign that Beijing is combating a shortage, it has released 62.5 million tons of rice, 50 million tons of corn, and more than 760,000 tons of soybeans from its strategic reserves, which is more than the amount released in all of 2019. China has also turned to importing large amounts of crops: In the first six months of 2020, it imported 74 million tons of grain, up 22 percent from a year ago. The United States was its biggest exporter with more than 9 million tons of soybeans, 100,000 tons of wheat, and 65,000 tons of corn. This week, Chinese buyers struck deals to buy 195,000 more tons of American corn, according to the USDA.
In Henan province, which accounts for 10 percent of China’s grain, farmers are hoarding their wheat as they expect the price to rise due to low supply, according to the South China Morning Post. A manager of privately owned “wheat purchase stations” in the town of Donghong surnamed Zhu told the Post his purchases fell by 44 percent this year.
He said wheat output from the area had fallen 30-40 percent from a year ago, even though the Henan provincial government said the harvest was at an all-time high. Zhu told the Post, “official figures may have been produced to assure the public."
Opposition from within
Cai Xia, a former professor at China’s elite Central Party School, accused Xi of “killing a country” and told The Guardian that “under the regime of Xi, the Chinese Communist Party is not a force for progress for China. In fact it is an obstacle to China’s progress.” After a speech Cai made criticizing Xi leaked online, the party expelled her. She has since left China and said there is widespread opposition within the party, but few dare to speak out.