Recently colleagues at Devex published a story about what China’s move away from grain self-sufficiency means for African agriculture. Curiously, they illustrated this story with the photo and caption above, of a pile of 50kg bags of rice coming into Senegal. The caption reads: “Chinese rice imports at the port of Dakar, Senegal. China is exploring ways to feed its growing population using food grown in Africa.” Devex said these imports are from China.
Tag Archives | Rice
“Have you eaten rice today?” In Asia this time honored greeting is synonymous with ‘how are you?’ and is heard from flooded paddies to corporate boardrooms.
A passing reminder of how essential this crop is for the 3.5 billion people whose day begins and ends with rice. From India’s dusty plains to the metropolises of China to the Philippines’ emerald hills no common thread runs through Asia’s diverse cultures, mythologies, and languages like rice. Japanese meals are referred to as morning, noon, and evening rice, Indian babies are introduced to rice in elaborate annaprashan ceremonies, and the Chinese New Year is greeted with ‘May your rice never burn!’ Commonplace and celebrated, the importance of rice cannot be overstated and this will only increase in coming years, as the world turns to rice to feed a global population set to exceed 9 billion by mid-century. Though rice’s roots are deeply rooted in Asia’s valleys and terraced paddies its future is global, and it is uncertain.
As rapidly expanding populations demand more and more from this ancient crop to sustain a modern world the question is clear: can rice feed the world, and if so, how? The world is in chaos. A billion people are starving and riots break out across the globe, protestors are killed, cities are burning, stricken governments call out their armies to guard food stockpiles. This is not some nightmare or vision of a future apocalypse…this is 2008. Population growth, high oil prices, biofuel subsidies, the suspected roots of the food crisis are many but when rice prices tripled in 2008 the World Bank believes a hundred million people were thrust into poverty and the world’s hungry increased by 75 million.
In Japan, rice is life. It is the core of the Japanese diet and its importance cannot be overstated.
After the Fukushima meltdown, since radioactivity in rice grown in the irradiated ground is not visible to the naked eye, tests must be conducted to determine its levels of radioactive cesium. If the levels are too high, the rice can’t be sold. As a result of tests instituted by the government, shipments of rice from an extensive area around Fukushima prefecture have been banned after the tests revealed they contained levels of radioactive cesium that exceeded safe levels. It is the first time the government has banned shipments of rice since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
A larger issue remains: health problems faced by the Japanese people after the meltdown, particularly mental health problems, did not appear to command the same degree of importance with government officials, farmers, and the people at large. The negative effects of the meltdown are not limited to just the harm caused by radiation levels present immediately after the Fukushima disaster. Simply living through this catastrophic disaster caused severe and persistent shock and trauma.