The world’s largest rice producer is hungry for more and looking to the U.S. for supplies. China will import American rice for the first time after a new trade deal was agreed to Thursday (July, 20).
“The agreement with China has been in the works for more than a decade and I’m pleased to see it finally come to fruition, especially knowing how greatly it will benefit our growers and industry,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a statement.
China produces 20 times more rice than the U.S., but it’s also the world’s biggest consumer. Recently it has been buying more rice abroad, spending way over $1 billion in some years, to feed its population.
Last year, China imported about 5 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The U.S. alone couldn’t satisfy that demand. America exports between 3 million and 4 million tons a year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
China was once largely able to feed itself, especially with rice. But it’s been relying more on imports in recent years. Rising food imports partly reflect challenges in Chinese agriculture. The rural population is aging, crop yields are low and there are high levels of soil depletion. Pollution and climate change also threaten production.
“What we have always to keep in mind is that the commitment among countries represents an opening for improvement and development of guidelines for the future. Evidently, the continuous expansion of our activity assumes important positions in the establishment of new business in China as we support companies since the beginning of their projects,” states Arnodo Guimarães Neto, Regional Manager for Corporation China in Shanghai.
Arnodo continues, “In this way, the increase of the dialogue between the different productive sectors plays an essential role in the formulation of the relationships. Among all the industries willing to come to China, none of them have faced unbeatable barriers.”
China was being smart in finding new sources of rice because temporary export bans from other Asian countries have caused problems in the past. In addition, American farmers are hoping to sell on quality and higher food safety standards. The rising middle-class in China is very interested in quality, said Michael Klein, USA Rice’s vice president of marketing, communications and domestic promotion.