In the thousands of years that farming has been practiced in China, the Chinese have refined and perfected their agricultural techniques. Traditional Chinese agriculture is labor intensive; the emphasis is on using many workers to increase the crop yield per unit of land rather than on increasing the productivity of the individual worker. Chinese agricultural practices have been shaped by the a shortage of farmland in the country, at least relative to the population.
Agriculture and rural activities are important in China for many reasons. First, farming provides the food and fiber needed for the sustenance of China's people. At the same time, nearly 65 percent of the people depend on agriculture or other rural economic activities for their livelihood. Second, agriculture has always provided the means of employment for most new workers entering the labor force . With between 12 and 16 million new workers entering the labor force annually since the 1980s, agriculture must continue to absorb tremendous numbers of new workers while continuing to find ways to use these workers productively. Finally, the agricultural sector has been an important source of investment money. If, through hard work, good management, and the application of sound, scientific farming, Chinese agriculture can be more productive, capital surpluses can be created and invested in other sectors of the economy, which could accelerate the rate of economic growth and ultimately benefit all of China's people.
China's grain output hit over 500 million tons in recent years, while current annual consumption is 463.5 million tons. Grain reserves now stand at historically high levels. However, it is true that the weak and fragile foundations of the agricultural system remain basically unchanged. Grain supply is still threatened by a series of unfavorable factors in production, circulation, consumption and foreign trade. A recent detailed estimate forecasts that the country's grain consumption requirements in the year 2030 would be between 632.8 and 725.8 million tons, with projected production at that time of 662.5 million tons. So even faced with the maximum shortfall of 63.3 million tons, the country would still be able to satisfy 90 percent of its own needs. Over the past decades, China has imported about 12 million tons annually, or 3 to 4 percent of consumption. Considering the trend of grain shortages in the medium and long term, China might need to import about 5 percent of its grain demand, or 20 million tons, in regular years.