China Strengthens its Importance in Global Rice Trade

For several years, China has been the top rice importer, but now its exports are beginning to have a growing impact on trade patterns. Its current dual roles as top importer and re-emerging exporter make it a linchpin to global trade.
Although China has had a tariff-rate quota (TRQ) for 5.32 million tons since 2004, for years it was far from filling it.
China emerged as a major rice importer in 2012 as domestic minimum support prices remained high, while many
exporters’ prices fell when India lifted its export ban. Since that time, imports have sky-rocketed, with a rising TRQ
fill rate and strong trade along the borders. Now, more than a tenth of global exports are destined for China, a critical
market for many of its neighboring suppliers. In 2017, over 10 percent of Thai exports were to China, whereas for
Vietnam it was over one-third and for Burma more than half. Despite ample domestic production and near-record
stocks, imports are expected to remain strong – so long as the price difference remains between Chinese domestic
prices and the lower prices offered by neighboring suppliers. A recent announcement to reduce the out-of-quota tariff for broken rice suggests openness to continued imports.
Yet even in a year of record imports, China is also returning as a rice exporter. In the past few years when its prices
have been well above global long-grain prices, it has maintained its core medium-grain markets in neighboring
countries. Although domestic new-crop prices remain high, the old-crop prices are significantly lower. Over the past
year, sales from reserve auctions have accelerated, bringing rice as old as 2013 into the market. China’s exports
expanded in 2017, primarily low-priced, old-crop shipments to African markets. The re-entry to the African market
(the top destination market around the turn of the century) in the latter part of the year coincided with the downturn of Thai old-crop rice exports to that region as its own government stocks have been nearly exhausted. To a lesser extent, China is also stepping up its exports to Asian and Mediterranean medium-grain markets and expanding food aid commitments. Exports have not been this high for 15 years, when China sought to reduce its voluminous stocks.
During that time, China was a significant exporter and now, certainly has the supplies to become one again.

Fuente: USDA

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