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Chicken feet, pig knuckles or cow tripe are hardly items that set the cash registers ringing at the export turnstiles. But in the global food markets, it is these leftover animal parts that are shaping the market trends as strong demand fromChinais providing the much-needed prop to meat and grain farmers.

Despite its humble nature, imports of pig offal – including pig’s head and knuckles, often served as a cold, fun snack with beer – stood at 882,200 tons in 2011 and accounted for more than 65 percent of the total pig products imported inChina.

Along with its robust economic growth and dietary enrichment, demand for meat has also been growing steadily inChina. The nation is one of the world’s largest consumers of pork, and its huge demand had a cascading effect on animal feed prices last year, particularly that of corn and soybean.

In 2011,Chinaimported agricultural products worth nearly $95 billion, compared with just $12 billion in 2001. The 2011 figures also represented 30 percent year-on-year growth, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Along with the rising trade volumes, there has also been a growing trade deficit in the agricultural sector. In 2011, the trade deficit rose 47.4 percent to $34 billion, whereas in 2004,Chinawas still a net agricultural exporter.

“Chinawill become the world’s largest agricultural product importer within the next five to 10 years,” said Cheng Guoqiang, a senior researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Chinais already the world’s largest importer of soybeans and cotton, and has been the largest agricultural export market for theUSsince 2010, with a total value tripling over the past six years to $17.8 billion. High onChina’s list of imports from theUSare corn, soybeans, cotton and processed animal feed.

But countries with vast arable land for expansion, such asBrazilandArgentina, are also racing to meet demand fromChina.

Chinaimported 19.8 million tons of soybeans fromBrazillast year, accounting for 38 percent of the total imports of 52 million tons from all sources. This helpedBrazilsurpass theUSas the biggest soybean exporter toChina.

Cheng said that rising incomes and the growing number of middle class people inChinaare contributing to a growing demand for food imports. “More than 1 million people every year move into the middle class segment inChina. The higher disposable income will help them to buy more meat, oil and milk. So it is natural that food imports will continue to grow,” he said.

Another reasonChina needs to import more agricultural goods is that the increased output of meat and grains will lead to a decrease in the amount of arable land, water supplies and other natural resources. Grain imports are often seen as a better approach for the wiser use of environmental resources.

“I don’t think self-sufficiency is something that holds in good stead nowadays, as the world is more developed and countries more specialized in what they can produce with good value for the global society,” said Marcos Neves, professor of strategic planning and food chains at the School of Economicsand Business,UniversityofSao Pauloin Brazil.

“Development inChinarequires a tightrope walk between green causes and the need to secure food supplies for the growing masses,” Neves said. “TakeBrazil, for instance. It is already the largest food exporter, and has at least 100 million hectares that can be used for agriculture and biofuel production, in a sustainable manner, being able to supply the needs ofChinain a safe and reliable way.”

Li Guoxiang, a senior researcher on rural development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, expects a golden window of five to 10 years for food imports, considering that the nation has some $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves and a strong purchasing ability for imports, coupled with healthy trade balances.

But of late, there has been considerable speculation in the international trade community that China’s inability to feed itself may have long-term consequences on the global food system. Some experts have even predicted that increased imports may lead to global food shortage and hunger.

Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu had earlier remarked that China’s grain imports are primarily to enrich crop varieties in the domestic market, and he stressed that the nation “will not and cannot” rely on imports to feed its 1.3 billion population.

Chinafeeds more than 20 percent of the world’s population despite having less than 10 percent of the world’s agricultural land and less than 6 percent of the water resources. The government has reiterated that it intends to meet about 95 percent of its food requirements from domestic sources.

Li saidChinaaccounts for a very small share of the global grain imports, and hence hardly in a position to shape global grain market trends, and least of all hunger in some less developed countries.

“It is actually a win-win situation rather than some evidence of a faltering agricultural sector,” he said.

“On the one hand, increasing agricultural imports will help China ease pressure on natural resources and increase the country’s grain security,” Li said. “But at the same time, the growing demand for farm food consumption also creates opportunities for international food manufacturers, as the unit prices increase in tandem with consumption patterns.”

Hogging the limelight

Pork imports have already hit the nadir and there seems to be no letup in demand, considering that domestic supplies are likely to remain constrained for some time.

“The gap between supply and demand is bound to increase within the next few years, despite an expected recovery from diseases and the reduction of small-scale pork farmers,” said Wang Xiaoyue, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Ltd.

“China’s pork imports will continue to rise due to strong demand and competitive pricing on imports,” he said.

The sharp decline in pork production last year led to record imports.China’s imports of pork and pork offal reached 1.35 million tons, up 50 percent over 2010, with theUSbeing the largest exporter, accounting for more than half of the total volume, according to the General Administration of Customs.

At the same time,Chinahas also become a top lure for meat exporters as demand has been climbing steadily. Most of the major pork exporting nations from Europe, North and South America are knocking onChina’s doors.

China’s imports of pork and pork offal reached their peak in 2008 with a volume of 910,000 tons. In 2010, the country imported 900,000 tons of pork, withDenmarkbeing the major supplier, followed by theUnited States,CanadaandFrance.

“As a country develops economically, the first quality of life aspect that improves at the household level is the carbohydrate to protein ratio on the daily diet. Greater economic prosperity among consumers on the mainland has directly translated into higher shares of animal protein such as pork,” said Jorge Sanchez, director of agricultural trade office at theUSconsulate inGuangzhou.

“An increase in pork consumption creates opportunities for US pork farmers, because the unit price increases are fueled by consumer demand.”

Ma Chuang, deputy secretary-general of the China Animal Agriculture Association, said that the country’s surging demand for pork and pork offal implies an optimal export scenario because Chinese consumers tend to place higher value on pork offal, which is not eaten in Western countries. As a result, overseas farmers can profit considerably from pork offal exports.

Pork imports stood at 467,000 tons last year, and pork offal stood at 882,200 tons. Pork offal such as pig’s heads, knuckles and haslet (a form of meatloaf), accounted for 65 percent of the total volume.

Not just tofu

Soybean imports byChinaare expected to maintain an uptrend in the next 10 to 15 years with growth being driven primarily by the demand from urban residents.

“Soybean imports are expected to grow substantially in the long term propelled by growing demand for oil and livestock feed,” said Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant, a major agricultural consultancy.

According to a US Department of Agriculture forecast,China’s imports of soybean are expected to go up by 62 percent to 90 million tons over the next 10 years.

“Soymeal, produced inChinalargely from imported soybeans, is an integral protein component of the feed necessary to supportChina’s burgeoning pork, poultry and aquaculture industries,” said the US Department of Agriculture in its first forecast 2012-13.

“Their rapidly maturing animal husbandry and feed industries, including aquaculture, expansion in crushing capacity and growing consumption of vegetable oils, are all driving demand which cannot be met by domestic supplies.”

In recent years, each person inChinahas been consuming 5 percent more meat, 10 percent more milk, and 8 percent more cooking oil annually compared with five years ago, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Chinais the largest importer of US soybeans, and buys a quarter of the country’s soybean production. In February, when Vice-President Xi Jinping made a visit to theUS, a Chinese trade delegation signed a deal to buyUSsoybeans with a total value of $4.31 billion and volume of 8.62 million tons.

The nation became a dominant force in the international soy markets in the late 1990s and is now the world’s largest importer and consumer, taking in 55 million tons in 2010, more than 50 percent of the annual global trade. Total soybean consumption has risen 64 percent since 2005, but the self-sufficiency rate stands at about 20 percent, according to Customs.

Ma said it is more efficient forChina to import soybeans than to produce them, as soybean production needs more land and water supplies.

“China will be more susceptible to price fluctuations in the international food market with more soybean imports,” he said. “But during unfavorable weather conditions, the soybean imports will keep the country insulated from international speculation and food-price fluctuations in the global market.”

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No matter in which country, the State Banquet seems to be mysterious and solemn.As for China, with its long cultural history in the art of food preparation, a deep importance is attached to State Banquets. What is Chinese State Banquet like? What are the stories behind each preparation? Join us to reveal the mysterious veil of the Chinese State Banquet.

part 1 National Day feast

Since the founding of the People´s Republic of China, almost all media reports on State Banquets have only listed the attendees. Since common people know little about them, they seem to be mysterious and solemn.

part 2 A special banguet

There is a very special menu for a State Banquet. What makes it so special is that it contains exclusively farmhouse dishes. More surprisingly, that State Banquet was given not in the Great Hall of the People but rather in a small mountain village in the centre of Taihang Mountains.

part 3 A mysterious evening banquet

Although nothing about this State Banquet was publicized in advance, the series of diplomatic events following this occasion have their eternal place in the development of Sino-US relations and even in the broader pattern of world affairs.

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On the Chinese New Year, while pairs of the door gods are pasted in the center of the door, spring couplets are pasted on each side of the door and propitious words across the lintel at the top, expressing the feeling of life’s renewal and the return of spring.

It is said that spring couplets originated from “peach wood charms”, door gods painted on wood charms in earlier times. During the Five Dynasties (907-960), the Emperor Meng Chang inscribed an inspired couplet on a peach slat, beginning a custom which gradually evolved into today’s popular custom of pasting-up spring couplets.

In addition to pasting couplets on both sides and above the main door, it is also common to hang calligraphic writing of the Chinese characters for “spring”, “wealth” and blessing. Some people will even invert the drawings of “Fu” since the Chinese for “inverted” is a homonym in Chinese for “arrive”, thus signifying that spring, wealth or blessing has arrived.

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Climbing Mountains

People like to climb mountains on this festival, so Double Ninth Festival is also called “Mountain-climbing Festival “.
The 9th lunar month, with clear autumn sky and bracing air, is a good time for sightseeing. So people, both ancient and present, love to go sightseeing this month.

Apart from expelling bad luck and disasters, climbing mounting also indicates “climbing to a higher position”, and it is also an important reason why ancient people pay much attention about this custom. Another reason that climbing mountains are valued by people, especially by the elderly is that is has a meaning of “climb to a longevous life”. Also for this reason people believe that climbing mountains can make people live a more longevous life.

It is really refreshing to climb mountains and enjoy the beauty of nature at this bright and clear time in autumn. Climbing mountains on Double Ninth Festival was already prevailing in the Tang Dynasty, and a lot of poems were devoted to this custom.

Enjoying Chrysanthemum Flowers

Chrysanthemum originated in China and was recorded in some Chinese books as early as the 5th century B.C. Chrysanthemum blossom in the ninth lunar month have a beautiful name of “flower of longevity”.

The custom of wearing chrysanthemum appeared in the Tang Dynasty already and was always very popular throughout the time afterwards. The entrances of some taverns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) were decorated with the flowers on the day, which was supposed to incite customers’ desire for wine. Chrysanthemum displays were usually held immediately after the day in some regions of China in the Qing Dynasty. People in Beijing began to stick the chrysanthemums on doors and windows to “get rid of the bad luck and bring in the good ones” which is an alteration of the custom of wearing Chrysanthemum on head. At these displays people might enjoy chrysanthemum flowers, take part in poem-composing competitions or watch painters drawing paintings of chrysanthemum flowers.

Drinking Chrysanthemum Flower Wine

The chrysanthemum flower wine is unique in brewing. In ancient times,people usually picked fresh chrysanthemum flowers and leaves on the 9th of the 9th lunar month, and brewed the mixture of them and grains into the wine, which would not be drunk until the same day next year. The wine is said to have wholesome effects on sharpness of the eye, alleviation of headache, drop of hypertension, reduction of weight and removal of stomach trouble, thus contributing to longevity. It is said that the drinkers of the chrysanthemum wine would be free from evil and have strong physique against cold weather.

Wearing Dogwood

The dogwood is a species of evergreen arbor; it is heavy-scented plant whose fruit is edible and stock and leaves can be medicinal materials. They can expel insects, get rid of the humidity, help digestion and cure inner heat. It puts out purple flowers in spring and bears, in autumn, purplish-brown fruit that is sour, puckery and mild in nature.

The custom of wearing dogwoods was already very popular in the Tang Dynasty. The ancient people believed that planting dogwoods on Double Ninth Festival could prevent diseases and avoid disasters. They also wear them on arms or heads or put them in sachets. Most of people that follow the custom are women and children, and in some places men also wear them.

Eating Double Ninth Cake

The Double Ninth cake is also known as “chrysanthemum cake” or “flower cake”. It dates back to the Zhou Dynasty. It is said that the cake was originally prepared after autumn harvests for farmers to have a taste of what was just in season, and it gradually grew into the present cake for people to eat on the Double Ninth Day.

The cake was usually made of glutinous rice flour, millet flour or bean flour.

Flying a paper crane

Paper crane is just kite. According to our traditions and customs, flying kites usually happen at the Qing Ming Festival. But Tomb Sweeping Festival is during the rainy season which obviously is not suit for flying a kite, while Double Ninth Day owns clear autumn sky and crisp air making kite flying a best outdoor activity.

In the recent years something new was added into the old festival and it became an annual “Respect-the-Senior Festival”. Every time it comes to this day, people will hold all kinds of activities to show their wish for the senior people that they can always keep healthy and happy.

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Spring rolls

Spring Rolls is a unique pan-Asian dining experience that offers sophisticated style and high quality at value prices.

Nian gao

During Chinese New Year, there’s a very popular and a must-have food to celebrate with. It is said to bring luck to everybody in terms of finance, career and family. This is a cake that has been traditionally passed down from many generations thousands of years ago, it is call ‘Nian Gao’ or some people call it Chinese New Year cake.

Jiaozi

Jiaozi(Chinese Dumpling) is a traditional Chinese Food, which is essential during holidays in Northern China. Chinese dumpling becomes one of the most widely loved foods in China.

Chinese dumpling is one of the most important foods in Chinese New Year. Since the shape of Chinese dumplings is similar to ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots, they symbolize wealth. Traditionally, the members of a family get together to make dumplings during the New Year’s Eve. They may hide a coin in one of the dumplings. The person who finds the coin will likely have a good fortune in the New Year. Chinese dumpling is also popular in other Chinese holidays or festivals, so it is part of the Chinese culture or tradition.

Chinese dumpling is a delicious food. You can make a variety of Chinese dumplings using different fillings based on your taste and how various ingredients mixed together by you.

Usually when you have Chinese dumpling for dinner, you will not have to cook anything else except for some big occasions. The dumpling itself is good enough for dinner. This is one of the advantages of Chinese dumpling over other foods, though it may take longer to make them.
Making dumplings is really teamwork. Usually all family members will join the work. Some people started to make dumplings when they were kids in the family, so most Chinese know how to make dumplings.

Fish

Is usually eaten or merely displayed on the eve of Chinese New Year. The pronunciation of fish  makes it a homophone for “surpluses”.

Guangdong candy

Guangdong candy, a sticky treat made out of glutinous millet and sprouted wheat, is thought to seal the Kitchen God’s mouth and encourage him to only say good things about the family when he ascends to Heaven to make his report.

Tangyuan

Tangyuan is special treats for southerners. Made of sticky rice flour filled with sweet or savory stuffing and round in shape, Tangyuan symbolizes family unity, completeness and happiness.

Tangerines and oranges

Tangerines and oranges are the “lucky” fruits and the best presents during the Spring Festival season as the words for tangerines and oranges sound like luck and wealth.

Dried persimmon cake

Dried persimmon cake is a popular treat for the Chinese New Year.

Bing Tang Hu Lu

Bing Tang Hu Lu or Candied haws on a stick, taste sour and sweet, and not only are delicious but look nice. The red haws arranged in order of size on the bamboo stick and covered with crystal thin malt sugar are so pretty.

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As a country that pays great attention to courtesy, our cuisine culture is deep rooted in China’s history. As a visitor or guest in either a Chinese home or restaurant you will find that table manners are essential and the distinctive courtesies displayed will invariably add to the enjoyment of your meals and keep you in high spirits!

Respect First

It is really an admirable custom to respect others at the table, including the aged, teachers and guests while taking good care of children.

Chinese people stress filial piety all the time. The practice of presenting the best or fine food first to the senior members of the family has been observed for countless generations. In ancient times the common people led a needy life but they still tried their best to support the elder mother or father who took it for granted.

Although the hosts in China are all friendly and hospitable, you should also show them respect. Before starting to eat dinner, the host may offer some words of greeting. Guests should not start to eat until the host says, ’Please enjoy yourself’ or something like that, otherwise it suggests disrespect and causes displeasure.

When hosts place dishes on the table, they will arrange the main courses at the center with the supporting dishes evenly placed around them. When the main dishes are prepared in a decorative form either by cut or other means they will be placed facing the major guests and elder people at the table. This also embodies virtue.

On Chopsticks

China is the hometown of chopsticks. The culture of chopsticks has a long history in China. The tradition of using chopsticks as tableware was introduced to many other countries in the world such as Vietnam, North Korea and South Korea.

The invention of chopsticks reflects the wisdom of Chinese ancient people. A pair of chopsticks, though they look simple, can nip, pick, rip and stir food. Nowadays, chopsticks are considered to be lucky gifts for marriage and other important ceremonies.

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At Important Moments

To celebrate the birthday is important moment in one’s life. When one is young, usually he will eat noodles before his birthday, because the long noodles indicate the longevity in China, and birthday cake on the actual day. After middle age, his birthday will grander. In addition to the above, peaches in many forms will be added symbolizing the longevity and immortality, as well as delightful couplets and candles.

On the wedding day, it is also customary to serve Chinese dates, peanuts, longan and chestnuts together as wish that the couple will soon have a baby in accord with the Chinese proclamation.

To most Chinese people, returning home after long absence or departure from home are both significant and there are food customs associated with this. The return home is greeted with noodles and off home while a farewell is offered with dumplings. This is especially popular in northeast China.

During the Dragon Boat Festival, though many people cannot reach the river zone to watch the boat race, almost all of them eat the unique food -zongzi, a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. The festival on that day it is to venerate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan and the people fearing his lack of food, made the special meal for him. Now the food is made in various shapes and sorts.

On the eighth day of the last month in the Chinese lunar calendar, people will enjoy a nourishing porridge called ’La Ba Zhou’. In ancient times, monks would kindly share all sorts of food grains with people and made them flavorful porridge on this particular day. People still keep this convention.

In Central China, when a baby is born, the happy father will send red boiled eggs to announce the news. Eggs with a black pointed end and dots in an even number such as six or eight, indicates a boy’s birth; those without a black point and in an odd number like a five or seven will say the baby is a girl.

In addition to these, fish has always been used to suggest the accumulation of prosperity and wealth with meals on New Year’s Eve.

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