Cultivated Land Conversion and Potential Agricultural Productivity in China

In China there is a growing debate on the role of cultivated land conversion on food security. This paper uses satellite images to examine the changes of the area of cultivated land and its potential agricultural productivity in China. We find that between 1986 and 2000 China recorded a net increase of cultivated land (+1.9%), which almost offset the decrease in average potential productivity, or bioproductivity (-2.2%). Therefore, we conclude that conversion of cultivated land has not hurt China's national food security. We also argue that more recent change in cultivated area likely has had little adverse effect on food security.