National campaigns to cut food waste in China have raised fears of an impending food shortage in the near future.
The Chinese government has launched the ‘clean plate’ campaign, which was targeting wasteful diners and the livestreaming of extreme eaters.
The message from the government has come at a time when the country faces not only the coronavirus pandemic, but tensions with the US, a major trading partner.
General Secretary Xi Jinping called the phenomenon of food waste ‘shocking and distressing’ and signalled a clampdown on popular videos of binge eating on social media.
The warning seems to have come with a sense of urgency, sparking speculation as to the motives behind it.
Diners at restaurants were also urged to order less to waste less, with reports of restaurants placing electronic scales at the entrance for customers to weigh themselves before ordering.
But the campaign has raised speculation China could be facing a food shortage, although state media outlets were quick to try and stop the panic of imminent food shortages, reporting that China had recently seen consecutive bumper grain harvests and record high grain output.
As living standards have raised, so has consumption. Obesity levels have soared and China was estimated to waste enough food in a year to feed a country the size of South Korea.
But with the pandemic already cutting consumption levels, China’s options to quell any shortages domestically were limited.
Subsidising production could fall foul of World Trading Organisation rules which could heighten tensions with the US.
This would mean China, already the world’s largest importer of food, would need to look to increase imports to meet demand.
This could then have a ripple effect on prices all around the globe.