China admits rice soils being over farmed

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According to the China National Grain & Oils Information Center, the country’s rice output will fall in 2013. The decline is prompting the world’s biggest rice consuming country to import more rice in order to ensure the country’s food supply.

Although weather is being blamed for the decline in rice production, other factors are at play as noted in a report provided by Global AgDevelopments Research and Insight e-newsletter produced by HighQuest Partners.

What is most interesting is that at least some government official suggest that rice fields’ production is declining due to decades of over farming without proper agronomic practices. What doesn’t make a lot of sense is blaming heavy fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use as cutting yields. The question is if something was lost in translation to English.

Ding Shengjun, a senior researcher at the Academy of the State Administration of Grain, reportedly said in an interview, "After decades of efforts to pursue higher outputs, China's rice sector is seeing a decline in competitiveness. The government has realized that the country's rice farmland needs a break after years of heavy use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides."

Like some other Asian countries such as Thailand, China has implemented policies to encourage rice cultivation and established guaranteed minimum purchase prices floors. After almost a decade of increases, rice prices are now well over those seen in international markets. The difference compared to countries like Thailand is that China is using all the rice grown to feed its people while Thailand is selling much of its rice in the international export market. And to confuse the situation even more, reports are that China is buying rice from Thailand.

China accounts for 26 percent of the world's rice production, and, therefore, more than 26 percent of the world rice consumption.

One speculation is that China might cap its guaranteed rice prices on domestic production even though rice yields are falling. In 2013, rice yields reportedly have fallen 1.7 percent to 6.7 tons per hectare.

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