Rural China Vs India
September 14, 2010

At a time when Russia has cut wheat exports, inflation, floods and a poor distribution system is affecting vegetable and grain affordability and both China and India have progressively more mouths to feed, rural agrarian land in both nations needs to be looked into.

Ranked largest and second largest in the world in terms of agricultural value-added output, rural India and China are the rice bowl for more than one-third of the world’s population. Nonetheless, that’s where their rural similarities end.

As both nations urbanized at different trajectories, China much faster than India, the rural-to-urban transition assumes different paths in both countries. In the case of China, the rapid decline in rural population is expected to fuel per capita incomes while for India, the continued increase, though at a fading momentum, is likely to further raise the rural consumption base.

In terms of landscape, China commands more than three times that of India but India’s arable land is 11 per cent more than China. However, China’s agricultural productivity is substantially higher than that of India – thanks to more fertilizer consumption, well-equipped agricultural machinery and better irrigation efficiency.

The Chinese also substantially lead in the production of meat, maize, cereals, soya bean and cotton while India is the world’s largest milk producer with 2.5 times more milk than that produced in China. Maize, a major feedstock, is harvested more in China as it’s the world’s largest meat producer while India has a large percentage of vegetarians. While land usage for food grains is much more in India, China has more land covered to grow vegetables. India and China together account for 20-50 per cent of the global production of all major agricultural products with the exception of soya bean.

As far as feeding their surmounting populations, India is expected to dethrone China as the world’s most populous nation by the year 2030 – this means that the share of the working-age population would be greater in India calling for additional food supply at a much faster rate. India will need to raise its food supply by 70 per cent (from base year 2005 till target year 2030) – 3.3 times as fast as China.

Additionally, while both nations are tackling growing water shortages and an increased use of fertilizers for higher, better yield, India yet needs to fix its public distribution system so as not to leave grain rotting in government warehouses, but to make sure that its utilized to feed hungry mouths. Similarly, China is learning to deal with milk and fresh produce that’s safe to consume. Quality levels are being monitored and efforts are being made to provide the populace with healthy, nutritious food.

Meanwhile, with the vision of inclusive growth, government schemes are being implemented to tackle social welfare issues in rural areas and uplift the rural population from malnutrition, poverty, diseases and illiteracy. Innovative technology is being implemented and a system of checks and balances to make sure funds trickle down is taking place. Infrastructure is boom in both rural China and India and foreign capital is being ushered in for development.

Rural households account for more than 55 percent of the total private consumption in India while for China, this figure stands at less than 30 per cent. In the coming years, rural India is likely to see greater demand for transport, residence and education while the rural Chinese are expected to demand more of clothing, consumer goods and education.


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