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China in Africa: The Real Story

Praise for FAOSTAT 3: Great Interface, Great Data

Deborah Brautigam

Photo credit: limaoscarjuliet. 
As many readers know, I am writing a book on China's agricultural investments in Africa. One of pieces of conventional wisdom I am questioning is the assumption that China wants to source its food in Africa. It's clear from detailed COMTRADE trade data that China actually exports far more food to Africa than the reverse. But that database is a pain to use.

Over the past few days I've been playing with the quick and easy FAOSTAT version 3, and I am really thrilled with its interface, and the range of data it provides. I hope it's good data -- it seems to match with other sources I'm using -- but what I especially love about it is the ease of queries on production and trade. Want to know where the Chinese sugar project in Benin exports its sugar? Bingo! (Portugal, France -- not China). Want to know if China exports rice to Mozambique? Bingo! (yes).

I know, this is all impossibly nerdy, but what a great job FAO is doing with making their data on food accessible. UN-COMTRADE: "eat" your heart out.