China Running Out of Rice, Will Import From USA

China Running Out of Rice, Will Import From USA

  Photo: USA Rice

Photo: USA Rice

In a trade agreement that has been in the works for more than a decade, China will begin importing rice from American farmers. China produces 20 times more rice than the US, but it's also the world's largest consumer. Recently it has been buying more rice abroad, spending more than $1 billion in some years, to feed its population. Last year, China imported about 5 million tons, according to the USDA.

The need to import food into China brings to light the challenges that are faced by Chinese agriculture. Rural populations are aging, soil is being depleted of nutrients, and crop yields are low in addition to the growing pollution and rapid climate change.

American rice is generally grown in just 5 states, (CA, LA, MS, MO, and TX) -- and it’s not exactly a lucrative enterprise. Rice farmers have faced lagging prices and oversupply for a long time. Total production amounts to just 9m tons per year (about the same amount China consumes in 2 weeks). And even with their new “in,” they’ll face steep competition from Vietnam and Thailand, who offer cheaper rice and faster delivery.

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