China is among a group of developing nations pushing for reduced farm subsidies in rich nations, like the United States. The Chinese claim the subsidies help prevent farm goods in poor nations from reaching lucrative markets.
Throw in certain domestic problems, and the farm export picture for places like China can turn sour in a hurry.
That fact was driven home this week when the Ministry of Agriculture announced that China posted a trade deficit of $4.6 billion in 2004. According to the Chinese government, the deficit was caused by tight local supplies and an influx of agricultural goods.
Typically, China is a net agricultural exporter. As recently as 2003, the Chinese enjoyed an agricultural trade surplus of $2.5 billion. But domestic supplies declined in 2004 leading to a surge of imports.
China is the world's largest consumer of corn, (pause) oilseeds (pause), wheat (pause), rice (pause), cotton (pause) and pork.
While the country recorded an agricultural trade deficit in 2004, the Chinese enjoyed an overall trade surplus of nearly $32 billion.