Few doubt China's importance to the world's financial markets: the third-largest economy sits on $2 trillion of surplus cash and much of the developed world's debt. But its influence extends far further than the financial markets. Though less publicised, the country's influence on the price of food commodities is already tremendous.

To increase China's exports of meat is a stated aim of the Chinese Government, and is seen as a sign of affluence in the country's rapidly developing economy.

The country's pork production has grown more than four-fold since 1980, a trajectory that looks set to continue.

Though at present much of this increased supply is being used to service China's rapidly growing domestic market, producers are expected to look to sell overseas increasingly.

With the EU's imports of pork increasing, China seems likely to be in a position to significantly grow its exports in years to come. This could pose very real challenges for UK producers, thanks to China's substantially lower production costs, boosted by the return of newly-unemployed workers to its countryside.

Yet though the growth of China's meat production is likely to spell lower prices for retailers and consumers, it is having the opposite effect on key cereal crops.

There were many factors behind last year's huge spike in wheat prices, including bad weather in many of the major global wheat supplying countries. However, one often neglected factor is China's growing demand for feed wheat - supported by government subsidies.

Last year, the Chinese Government spent around 3.7% of the country's GDP subsidising agriculture, primarily through buying grain from world markets then reselling it internally at a reduced price, reducing the cost of Chinese meat. This led to accusations from the international community that China was driving up the price of key grain groups, even if they were doing so inadvertently.

China is a massive player in world agricultural markets: it already accounts for 12% of world barley imports, and buys around half the world's exports of soya beans, a key source of protein in animal feed.

This gives them a degree of power over the price of soya, which influences the price of an enormous range of foodstuffs.

Producers in the UK are shielded somewhat from China's growing influence, due to a number of factors including geographical distance (China would sell its meat within the Far East region preferentially) and quality restrictions. After recent food scares, Chinese food producers also face some consumer resistance if looking to expand their export offering.

Yet with the Chinese economy widely expected to ride out this year's turmoil far more successfully than the EU and USA, it seems China's influence on food commodities is only set to grow.