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Abstract

Rural households in China have traditionally consumed food mostly grown on their own farms. While they continue to rely on self-produced grains, vegetables, meats, and eggs for a large portion of their diet, rural households are now purchasing more of their food as they enter the mainstream of the Chinese economy. Cash purchases of food by rural Chinese households increased 7.4 percent per year from 1994 to 2003. Consumption has shifted from self-produced to purchased food at a rate faster than can be explained by income growth or changes in other household characteristics. The move away from self-produced food is associated with lower consumption of staple grains, the most important self produced food in rural Chinese diets. Food consumed away from home is one of the fastest growing categories of rural household expenditures, doubling in budget share from 1995 to 2001. Commercialization of food consumption is diversifying Chinese diets, broadening food markets, and creating new opportunities for retailers and product distributors.

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