Enhancing water and land efficiency in agricultural production and trade between Central Asia and China

Yilin Liu, La Zhuo*, Olli Varis, Kai Fang, Gang Liu, Pute Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Besides posing soaring pressure on water and land resources, the ever-intensifying agricultural production redistributes these pressures trough increasingly intensive trade. Environmental consequences are complicated and unprecedented, and postulate thorough scrutiny. Little attention is paid to developing regions which are small nodes in terms of trade volume in global trade however of visible gaps in water and land productivities. Five Central Asian nations (CANs) have close trade activities with their neighbour China, but their agricultural production efficiency is strikingly low and the ecological environment is severely degraded. Here we evaluate, among CANs and China, the water and land footprints, virtual water and land trades, as well as potentials in enhancing water and land efficiency related to sixteen primary crop products, four primary animal products, and twelve derivative products production and trade over the period 2000–2014. We find that the blue water footprint and land footprint per unit product in CANs were up to 61- and 17-times higher than in China. Through enhancing water and land efficiency without further intervention in water and land endowments, the scenario for CANs shows an additional food supply for feeding 387 million people or half the starving population in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146584
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Central Asia
  • Efficiency
  • Food security
  • Land footprint
  • Trade-offs
  • Water footprint


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