According to the Analysts, the China is seeking to boost rice production to meet rising consumption demand. However, increasing levels of soil and water pollution are posing great challenges to the East Asian country. In this regard, an article in the Nikki Asian Review analyses the challenges faced by China in boosting yields and quality of rice production in the light of rapid conversion of farmland to industrial use in addition to soil pollution and water shortages.
Recently, the New York based Council on Foreign Relations warned that soil contamination, like air and water pollution, exacts a heavy economic and political toll on the Chinese people. Further, it has been narrated that China produces at least 12 million tons of heavy metal-contaminated rice worth about $3.2 billion annually in which high levels of cadmium in rice from Human Province was discovered. The Human Province is a center of Chinese rice production.
It has also been reported by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap) that China faces pressures to maintain quality in the context of heavy industrialization. So, China is taking measures to look into the pollution and water problems. In April 2015, the China government came up with the Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control. Under this project, it aims to achieve significant improvements in water quality by 2020, including ground water pollution. The Ministry of Environmental Protection will introduce a new soil pollution prevention law with effect from 2017.
In this context, the government is also trying to increase rice production with the help of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute. However, analysts expressed concern that China’s rice imports are increasing significantly to meet the demand. Unofficial imports are increasing due to wide price differentials between domestic and international prices. Smuggling is understood to take place through the borders of Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos with the willingness of Chinese authorities. Nearly 4-5 million tons of rice enters China unofficially every year.
Further, the experts are estimating that unofficial imports would increase due to the soil and water pollution issues. They also expressed concern that increased imports would lead to higher global rice prices. According to the data from the International Grains Council (IGC), China’s milled rice production is estimated to increase to around 144.6 million tons from an estimated 142.5 million tons in 2014. China is expected to import around 4 million tons officially in 2015 compared to around 3.7 million tons in 2014.The data indicates that production and imports are likely to increase to around 145.6 million tons and 4.2 million tons respectively in 2016.