In an effort to overcome consumer fears regarding food safety, China is becoming increasingly dependent on imports of rice from other countries, including Japan. Despite the fact that China is by far the largest consumer and producer of rice in the world, importation has sky-rocketed. In fact, the amount of rice imported to China from Japan tripled in the time between 2013 and 2014.
The news of China’s increasing reliance on imports has come following revelations in 2013 that some of the rice purchased by the U.S. from China had been poisoned with “dangerously high lead levels”. At the same time, other studies discovered that around 44% of the rice samples that were tested from China contained excess levels of cadmium as a result of heavy industrialisation pollution. A further 16% of Chinese soil was discovered to be heavily contaminated.
Lead and contamination however, are not the only issues that have arisen in regards to Chinese rice products. A study in 2011 actually linked the purchase of rice in the U.S. to increased arsenic exposure.
For Chinese citizens who can afford to purchase rice elsewhere, importing Japan’s supply has become a status symbol. However, Reuters suggests that a large portion of this drive to import may come from a falling confidence in the safety of the food produced and sold within their own country.
It is not just private consumers that are turning to imports for their rice needs. According to information provided by the Wall Street Journal, China has been forced to import huge amounts of rice from elsewhere in order to keep up with continuous demand. Though the country developed around 143 million tonnes of rice during 2014, it also imported a further 2.2 million tonnes from other locations, including the U.S.
Chinese food safety scares
Over the recent years, China has been plagued with a number of issues regarding food safety. According to CNN, almost 50% of all the processing plants for food in China fail to meet standards set my international guidelines. What’s more, tracking issues have been highlighted in the country following issues with other food scares.
In an attempt to stay healthy, and ensure their food is safe, consumers throughout the country have started to turn for other options when it comes to purchasing groceries, taking in everything from infant formula to safer milk.