Famine and Food Supply

July 12, 1950

Report Outline
Chronic Hunger of Half the Word's People
Means of Increasing World Food Supplies
Qualitative Improvement of Inadequate Diets
Special Focus

Chronic Hunger of Half the Word's People

Unknown Proporations of Famine in China

The Foreign Economic Assistance Act of 1950, approved June 5, authorizes the appropriation of $8 million for American relief of starving people in Communist China if suitable arrangements can be made to get food into their hands. While the measure was under consideration in Congress, dispatches from newspaper correspondents at Hong Kong reported that the famine then sweeping most of the eastern provinces might prove the most catastrophic in more than a century. The official Communist radio at Peiping stated, Apr. 15, that 40 million people were affected, and that of these some seven million were “in a most serious plight.” The Nationalist government on Formosa said that 50 million on the mainland were suffering from food shortage and disease, with 10 million in danger of starvation.

Famines are an old story in China, where one district or another suffers acute food shortage almost every year and 100 million people are estimated to have starved to death in the last century. Over 400 different famines had occurred within the memory of Chinese interviewed in a survey in 1932. These disasters followed crop failures due mainly to drought or flood, but war, wind, frost and insects had also ruined crops. Famines had been most severe in the northern, wheat-growing region, where drought was the most common cause but floods had contributed. The southern, rice-growing region had suffered local crop failures due to flash floods, but droughts had affected wider areas.

This year's famine was due to both drought and flood, which have not struck simultaneously in wide stretches of territory since 1878, when nine million persons perished. The 1949 drought in northeastern China was the most severe in 30 years, and floods in the Yangtze Valley in central China ruined thousands of acres of growing crops in both 1949 and 1950. Civil war interfered with food production, and unusually heavy collections of grain for taxes were reported. Also reported were food shipments from Manchuria to the Soviet Union. However, heavy shipments of grain into shortage areas have been announced by the Communist radio.

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