Amid virus & trade wars, China forced to buy rice from India

New DelhiEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Dec 03, 2020, 09:34 AM IST
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Women planting rice in paddy fields Photograph:(AFP)

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Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Pakistan have been China's traditional rice suppliers but this time they haven't been able to supply what China needs

For the first time in 30 years, China has been forced to buy rice from India because rice is a staple food item for two-thirds of Chinese and China may not have enough of it.

A few months ago, it was reported that China could be staring at a food crisis. The Wuhan virus, floods, epidemics, locusts and the trade wars triggered a food shortage in China as President Xi Jinping launched a public campaign to control wastage.

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Several Chinese experts say China could be in the middle of a food crisis. Beijing has deployed its entire media machinery to fight this charge. The state mouthpieces have countered claims of food crisis with editorials, opinions and videos but they haven't been able to kill the story and now China is buying rice from India.

While the border standoff still continues, it couldn't be more clear that China is short on food supplies. With rice supplies from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam having reduced, China needs more rice, so it began importing from India reportedly at discounted prices.

Indian traders have been contracted to export 100,000 tonnes of broken rice for $300 dollars per tonne. Broken rice are fragments of rice grains which are broken in the field during drying or transport or by milling.

Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Pakistan have been China's traditional suppliers but this time they haven't been able to supply what China needs, also they were quoting rates which was at least $30 more for a tonne of rice.

India is the world's biggest rice exporter and China is the biggest importer. China needs more rice. In fact, the Dragon needs a lot more than rice with many crises this year having shaken the food supply chains in China, it has forced the Chinese to buy several goods from overseas.

It comes after China's President Xi Jinping called the food wastage in China "shocking" and "distressing". It led to a public campaign in China with restaurants taking special measures to stop wastage.

In Wuhan, the original epicentre of the pandemic, the catering association started limiting the number of portions that one can order in restaurants. They wrote an open letter asking restaurants to be more "mindful" of the amount of food they are served.

A new rule for ordering was created called the "n-1 model" which means a group dining at a restaurant will be served one dish less. So, if there are 10 people, they will be able to order just nine portions of food.

There was a clampdown on any sight of extravagance. The Chinese government started taking down muckbang videos where people eat vast amounts of food quickly. China felt these videos encourage wastage, so they were censored from social media

Some others went a step ahead, a restaurant in central China asked customers to weigh themselves before they order their meals but apologised after facing a backlash. Chinese state media has played a vital role in the campaign.

When the international media raised doubts over the shortage, the Chinese state mouthpieces hit back saying "thriftiness" or the quality of being careful with money or resources especially avoiding waste is a part of Chinese culture - a practice that dates back thousands of years.

At the same time, reports of a bumper harvest kept pouring in. Since September, Xinhua has been reporting that China had bumper harvests of both summer grain and early rice in 2020.