What is in this article?:
- Water problems stalk India rice producers
- Milo Hamilton, rice trader and author, on India, rice and regional issues.
- How India and China interact.
The often chaotic mixture of Indian languages, religions and cultures can leave a visitor’s head spinning.
“If you try to think of India as a country, you’ll go nuts,” says Milo Hamilton, veteran rice trader and president of Firstgrain.com. “It’s more like an amalgamation of small countries. It’s amazing how it holds together.
“But it’s a democracy and farmers there can own land and India is currently on a tear. They’ve increased the amount of people that will receive food/grain subsidies from 35 percent of the population to 70 percent. They did that last fall and it’s so important -- hundreds of millions of more people can eat cheaper grain.”
Hamilton, author of “When Rice Shakes the World: The Importance of the First Grain to World Economic & Political Stability," argues that rice is not only an incredibly food source but a cause for cooperation between Asian governments that are too often displeased with each other.
“The International Rice Research Institute produced a rice almanac, about 400 pages. In the almanac, they declared that the China, India and Indonesia per capita consumption of rice is going up, not down, since four or five years ago. That was unexpected. Part of that may be due to the millions more being placed on the food-grain dole.”
These changes are seismic, says Hamilton. “The largest source of the world’s wealth -- over 50 percent -- 500 years ago, was in China and India. Today, half the world’s wealth is again in China and India. The difference is that 500 years ago, it was immobile and now it’s in motion. Their agriculture is in motion, drones, communication networks -- all of that is going on at the same time in those two mammoth countries.”
And they like to eat rice.
However, there are problems.
“India is wasting water at accelerating rates. Fifty-four percent of Indian land is arable. That’s the good news. The bad news is they have major water problems. India is pulling about half a Lake Mead worth of water from its declining aquifers. Lake Mead is the largest man-made reservoir in the United States.
“India is an exporter of 10 million tons of rice annually. But, as people continue to eat more and more rice, it is predicted that India will become a modest exporter -- or possible even importer -- of rice within the next five years.”