Welcome!

News Feed Item

Will China's Consumer Boom Spark U.S. Shortages? It Could Happen -- If the "Boomerang Effect" Isn't Kept in Check

BCG Research Shows That the Rise of the Middle Class in China and India Could Prompt Widespread Shortages and Inflation, but Smart Investment, Policies, and Technologies Could Forestall Crisis

BOSTON, MA -- (Marketwire) -- 03/05/13 -- Chinese and Indian consumers are living well and eating well. And that could spark a global crisis. The consumer boom in China and India will touch off global inflation and could lead to food and water riots if investment, policy, and technology don't keep pace.

Without smart, quick action by the private sector and government alike, surging Chinese and Indian demand for premium foods will lead to commodity volatility, runaway food prices, and worldwide water shortages as the "boomerang effect" brings the unexpected impact of Asian growth to U.S. shores.

That's the conclusion of research by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The main findings are presented in "The Boomerang Effect," a Perspective that is being released today, and "The $10 Trillion Prize: Capturing the Newly Affluent in China and India" (Harvard Business Review Press, October 2012), a recent book by BCG consultants Michael J. Silverstein, Abheek Singhi, Carol Liao, and David C. Michael.

The Perspective is part of BCG's Game-Changing Program to help leaders and their companies capitalize on the opportunities created by the seismic shifts in the global economy.

"Chinese and Indian consumers are celebrating their newfound wealth by eating like Americans: they're shifting their diets from grain to meat," Silverstein said. "Their wealth is a good thing. It creates new markets and new opportunities. But it can also lead to global traumas: highly inflated food prices across the U.S., as well as dangerous worldwide shortages of key natural resources, especially water.

The Boomerang Effect Brings Surprising Outcomes from Asia to the U.S.

"This is an example of what we call the boomerang effect -- a set of hard-to-foresee outcomes that come home to roost as a result of developments far away," Silverstein said. "We have seen it before. In the early 1990s, direct investment in China led to a flood of cheap goods and permanent shifts in the U.S. labor market. This time, it's different. The Chinese and Indian middle-class consumers have developed new food preferences that will lead to hypercompetition for commodities such as feed, corn, and water. Climate change is already creating droughts worldwide and bringing the threat of famine, food riots, and water wars in Asia. This new surge in consumer demand will worsen the strain in Asia and the U.S. as well."

But the boomerang effect doesn't necessarily lead to chaos, Silverstein added. "Crisis can always lead to opportunity. Smart investments and policies can limit the impact of inflation and shortages."

Step by Step: How Changing Food Tastes in China and India Could Spark Crisis

According to BCG, there are only a few steps between booming wealth and changing tastes in China and India and global crisis:

  • Wealth -- and consumption -- is skyrocketing in both India and China. By 2020, there will be 2 billion economically able Chinese and Indian consumers -- 1 billion of them new to the middle class. In both nations, lifetime consumption patterns are changing radically. Chinese born in 2009 will consume 38 times more than those born in 1960. Indians born in 2009 will consume 13 times more than those born in 1960.

  • Doing well means eating well, and that means eating meat. Consumers in China are celebrating their wealth by abandoning their traditional diets, shifting from grain toward chicken and pork. Chicken and pork accounted for 4 percent of daily calories in China in 1960; by 2020 they could account for as much as 28 percent. The surge in demand is forcing China to become a net importer of chicken and pork.

  • For meat, you need livestock. For livestock, you need feed. Feed is in short supply. Demand for chicken and pork means demand for feed grain -- lots of it. It takes 2 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of chicken and 6 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of pork. In 2010, 99 percent of China's corn production went for feed -- a figure that also represents 20 percent of global corn production for that year. The result is that China is no longer self-sufficient when it comes to corn. China's corn imports will increase from 1.7 million tons in 2010 to 15 million tons in 2015 -- the equivalent of U.S. exports of 600 million bushels.

  • Put a strain on the global feed supply? You're going to pay for it. All the figures above mean that China's corn consumption will have significant global impact, and prices will surge well beyond current levels. Global corn consumption is projected to rise 3.2 percent per year from now through 2020. That means a 40 percent increase in overall consumption. And that means corn prices could increase as much as 57 percent from 2010 through 2020.

  • Expensive corn means expensive food -- including here at home. Demand for corn in China drives up beef prices in the U.S. Feed is 55 percent of the cost of raising cattle. And grain is 60 percent of the total cost of feed. So a 57 percent increase in the cost of feed by 2020 could lead to a 20 percent increase in beef prices. That hits home. A Big Mac, which cost about $3 in 2003 and goes for just over $4 today, could, by 2015, easily cost $5 -- or even more.

  • There's no meat without feed and no feed without water. To grow feed grain, you need large quantities of water. China's shift to meat consumption leads to a tenfold increase in the need for water. And the water supply is already in crisis. Worldwide, water consumption is already ahead of sustainable supply and is growing at 2.2 percent a year. In China and India (which depends on China for much of its water), water supplies are strained by drought. India could have 600 million people without water in 25 years.

  • The water crisis brings it all back home. Water is a problem in the U.S., too. It is becoming difficult to irrigate land there, and a new dust bowl is a real possibility. Water restrictions are already in place in Western states, and the price of water in some U.S. cities is already equivalent to those in Israel. U.S. water riots aren't out of the question. But short of that, scarce water means costlier food. The last dust bowl -- from 1931 through 1936 -- killed off 30 percent of corn production and drove corn prices up 115 percent. Right now, U.S. food exports to China require an 18 percent annual increase in water consumption. Higher corn prices, the result of drought alone -- leaving out other factors -- could double the price of chicken by 2018.

Getting Ahead of the Crisis: Policies Can Help, and Companies Can Prosper

Is the worst-case scenario inevitable? Not necessarily, Silverstein said. "Famine and food riots are a reality in India, and water wars between China and India are a genuine risk. But innovation can help. Smart policy decisions can mitigate the worst effects and create opportunities for companies that are sharp and nimble."

BCG lists the following among the private- and public-sector initiatives that could help:

  • Microirrigation that delivers water directly to plant roots could increase the efficiency of water use by 50 percent.

  • Innovations in seed technology, including genetically modified organisms, can mean higher food production with no increase in water consumption.

  • New policies that price water at market rates, could, said Silverstein, "lead to more efficient water use, as it already has in Israel."

"The boomerang effect doesn't have to end in riots and fewer hamburgers for Americans," Silverstein said.

For more information, please go to www.bcgperspectives.com/10trillionprize.

Follow Michael Silverstein on Twitter @MJSilverstein.

A copy of the report can be downloaded at www.bcgperspectives.com.

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or [email protected].

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 78 offices in 43 countries. For more information, please visit bcg.com.

About bcgperspectives.com

Bcgperspectives.com features the latest thinking from BCG experts as well as from CEOs, academics, and other leaders. It covers issues at the top of senior management's agenda. It also provides unprecedented access to BCG's extensive archive of thought leadership stretching back almost 50 years to the days of Bruce Henderson, the firm's founder and one of the architects of modern management consulting. All of our content -- including videos, podcasts, commentaries, and reports -- can be accessed via PC, mobile, iPad, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The BCG Game-Changing Program

We are living in an age of accelerating change. The old ways are rapidly becoming obsolete and new opportunities are opening up. It is clear that the game is changing. At The Boston Consulting Group, we are optimistic: we think that the fundamental drivers of growth are stronger than they have ever been before. But to capitalize on this trend, leaders need to be proactive, to challenge the status quo, to make bold moves -- they need to change the game, too. The decisions they make now, and over the next ten years, will have an extraordinary and enduring impact on their own fortunes as well as on those of their organizations, the global economy, and society at large. To help leaders, and to mark our fiftieth anniversary, BCG is pulling together the best ideas, insights, and ways to win -- to own the future. This publication is part of that endeavor.

More Stories By Marketwired .

Copyright © 2009 Marketwired. All rights reserved. All the news releases provided by Marketwired are copyrighted. Any forms of copying other than an individual user's personal reference without express written permission is prohibited. Further distribution of these materials is strictly forbidden, including but not limited to, posting, emailing, faxing, archiving in a public database, redistributing via a computer network or in a printed form.

Latest Stories
If you had a chance to enter on the ground level of the largest e-commerce market in the world – would you? China is the world’s most populated country with the second largest economy and the world’s fastest growing market. It is estimated that by 2018 the Chinese market will be reaching over $30 billion in gaming revenue alone. Admittedly for a foreign company, doing business in China can be challenging. Often changing laws, administrative regulations and the often inscrutable Chinese Interne...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Niagara Networks will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration, and management solutions, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...
Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco, described how to scale cloud-based content management repositories to store, manage, and retrieve billions of documents and related information with fast and linear scalability. He addres...
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the protocols that communicate data and the emerging data analy...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
We’ve been doing it for years, decades for some. How many websites have you created accounts on? Your bank, your credit card companies, social media sites, hotels and travel sites, online shopping sites, and that’s just the start. We do it often without even thinking about it, quickly entering our personal information, our data, in a plethora of systems. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the information we are providing. It could be very personal information (think of the security questions you ...
Digital innovation is the next big wave of business transformation based on digital technologies of which IoT and Big Data are key components, For example: Business boundary innovation is a challenge to excavate third-party business value using IoT and BigData, like Nest Business structure innovation may propose re-building business structure from scratch, as Uber does in the taxicab industry The social model innovation is also a big challenge to the new social architecture with the design fr...
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
All clouds are not equal. To succeed in a DevOps context, organizations should plan to develop/deploy apps across a choice of on-premise and public clouds simultaneously depending on the business needs. This is where the concept of the Lean Cloud comes in - resting on the idea that you often need to relocate your app modules over their life cycles for both innovation and operational efficiency in the cloud. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at19th Cloud Expo, Valentin (Val) Bercovici, CTO of So...