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China moving to control rice production industry

Through various hybrid seed programs domestically and abroad, China seems to be moving to cultivate and control regional food production systems.

NISTPASS writes,

“Hybrid rice is big business for China, and it is seen as crucial to Beijing’s new policy of developing its own multinational agribusiness corporations. Much of the hybrid rice seed sold in Asia is imported from Chinese companies or based on parental lines licensed from Chinese companies. In recent years, Beijing has established numerous overseas hybrid rice programs, as part of its international cooperation. It also runs an international hybrid rice training centre in Hunan, which has already provided training courses for more than 2,000 government officials and agro-technicians from 50 countries since 1999. This program will now be extended under an agreement announced during a meeting in May 2009 of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Beijing and ESCAP’s Asian and Pacific Centre for Agricultural Engineering and Machinery (APCAEM) will join forces in a multi-year project to “transfer technology” and “extend hybrid rice cultivation to selected experts of 12 countries in the region”.

China is also involved in establishing rice plantations in Timor Leste through a project called the China-East Timor Agricultural Cooperation on Hybrid Rice Technology which commenced in 2008. Technical support is being provided by the Chinese government, through the Longping Hightech International Exchange Center. The cooperation aims not only to replace what is traditionally grown in East Timor (fruits, rootcrops, and so on) but to introduce within two years advanced Chinese hybrid rice technology and farm machinery by means of technical demonstration and training.”

Implications

China’s move to establish and lead a regional industry of rice production points to the growing politicization of agriculture, as a means to stabilize food security (explained here) and support its presence abroad. NISTPASS emphasizes, “For China, however, the hybrid rice gambit is not just about seeds. The Chinese government is interested in expanding its overall control of rice production beyond its borders, both to secure national rice supplies and to feed its growing teams of Chinese labor working around the world. It looks like that what the BRIC started (in this case, only I(ndia) and C(hina) did), it should become a new trend for other developing economies to follow. Definitely, this trend would chang the landscape of food production, consumption, and it would go beyond scientific research and technology development, into even politically related issues in relation between economies, government and firms.” In addition to sharecropping local farmers, it could also sharecrop entire economies of developing countries in Asia and elsewhere. NISTPASS highlights, “For example, Papua New Guinea has no tradition of growing or eating rice, but last year, some local communities started planting hybrid rice seeds imported from China.”

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Sources:

NISTPASS, Sept 2010 page 5-8:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/NISTPASS_Sept2010.pdf#page=5

Why hybrid rice continues to fail Asia's small farmers. http://www.grain.org/o/?id=100

Jamil Anderlini, “China eyes overseas land in food push” Financial Times, May 8, 2008, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cb8a989a-1d2a-11dd-82ae-
000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1

International Exchange Center, “China-East Timor Agricultural Cooperation on Hybrid Rice Technology” July 31, 2009, http://www.hybrice.com/en/IntroItem.asp?IntroID=12