The Great Debate UK
China needs fertilizer more than steel. If the Middle Kingdom's industrialization follows the course of other nations, per capita demand for infrastructure like concrete and steel will peak long before meat consumption.
This may explain why mergers and acquisitions activity in the agriculture sector has become so hot. For example, miner Vale just agreed to buy Bunge's Brazilian fertilizer assets for $3.8 billion.
In the typical path of development, demand shoots up for everything, but industrial goods particularly benefit. Highways, power plants and ports are built, and require construction materials.
As a result, companies build steel and cement plants to meet demand -- and assembling these factories calls for a lot of their own product. China's per capita production of cement and steel (1,300 kg and 500 kg, respectively) is already at levels higher than most industrialized countries'.
The present financial crisis may be understood as the hangover that inevitably follows a long period of excess. The contraction of world trade that it has brought is bad news for the citizens of least developed countries (LDC) who have not enjoyed the party but may now be required to share the costs.