China to look to Africa for food: study

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China will increasingly look to Africa over the next decade as the world's most populous nation seeks to ensure it has sufficient food supplies, according to a study published Wednesday.

While China has is recent years turned to Africa to secure energy and raw material resources to fuel its rapidly-growing economy, it will soon be for food commodities, according to Standard Bank research analysts Simon Freemantle and Jeremy Stevens.

"Sub-Saharan Africa's (SSA) immense and largely untapped agricultural potential is being increasingly viewed by China as a cog in an unfolding and inclusive food security strategy," they said in their report.

They noted Africa's underperforming agricultural sector gives China an opportunity to build and improve bilateral ties with the provision of developmental and technical assistance.

They noted it is already clear that Beijing is seeking to build deeper relationships in agriculture with land-rich and politically stable countries that are friendly to China, such as Mozambique where China has made extensive agricultural investments.

"For now, China's strategy is overtly developmental and, though commercialism inspires many of the cooperative farming projects, profits are generated almost entirely in local and regional markets," said the report.

"Most of these initiatives will look to bolster China's agricultural trade ties with Africa, though some, as has been evident in nascent moves in Latin America, will position Chinese firms to control the external source of production," they added.

The authors noted that China can offer Africa capital and skills that are desparately needed, but authorities will need to ensure that investments are properly structured to ensure that domestic food security interests are protected.

"Managed well, partnerships with China can be meaningful. However, domestic food security must be placed first," the wrote.

© 2011 AFP

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