I almost never start a blog post, story, column (or speech) with a quote. I got pummeled for doing so back in the 1970s by an editor at the Windsor Star, and I’ve never forgot.

But to me, this one bears our attention:

“The world cannot afford a failure as big as China.”

That’s a warning from Chinese agricultural journalist Zhou Siyu, in his fine 2012 outlook story about his country’s projected agricultural fortunes, published in the China Daily.

Zhou, who visited Guelph in September as a participant in the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress, says China’s farmers are fighting a battle on two fronts.

“They are simultaneously contending with a surge in demand stemming from the ever-increasing population, and with a decrease in the amount of arable land, water and other natural resources that can be exploited, ” he says.

According to Zhou, the country’s looming troubles help explain why it has imported more agricultural goods in recent years. Not until 1996 did the country begin to import soybeans. By 2010, though, China was bringing in 54.8 million tons of soybeans a year, making it the largest importer of that farm product in the world.

Here’s the Canadian angle: in 2011, China surpassed Canada to become the largest importer of US agricultural goods. It’s a very hungry country.  And, says Zhou, it’s spending a lot of money on food, with its imports helping keep economies such as the US afloat.

That’s why the world can’t afford China to fail, says Zhou. Globally, who else is spending money?

The photo in this blog post is from China Daily, of harvesting at a farm in Nantong, Jiangsu province.