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.
This dynamic has led to a global situation where “China could become a huge importer of rice and India loses its capacity to export it. I believe China will be an importer of rice for many years to come. I believe that India will be a modest exporter. Many experts believe that about India. My thoughts on China are not widely held yet.”
Hamilton returns to India’s worsening water problems. “India is a wonderful place. It’s an agricultural super power but it has water troubles. They have a major, long-term water problem that they aren’t facing up to.
“Of course, in a democracy, it’s rare that you have to face up to things. Instead, politicians are just looking to get re-elected.
“In a non-democracy like China, you can do what you want -- with water, say. And China is trying to come to grips with its water issues to some degree. For example, by importing soybeans, it is saving about 15 percent on its annual water usage.
“Rice consumes 70 percent of all irrigation water in China. Rice typically uses twice as much irrigated water to grow than wheat.”
Meanwhile, in India, 40 percent of the nation’s annual water resources are used up annually. Almost all of that is for irrigation, says Hamilton. “Inside China, the percentage is 20. In terms of water usage, India is actually in worse shape than China. Inside the United States, it’s 15 percent. Nigeria and Brazil and Russia use around 4 percent.
“In 10 years, all the areas with huge water problems will be forced to import rice. I stand by that statement until proven wrong. The whole thing is therefore about water, not rice.”
And the potential for conflict between the sub-continent and its northern neighbor lurks.
“Think about this: China must import so much of its energy while India controls the Indian Ocean through which much of the crude oil moves to China. Meanwhile, China controls much of the water that India relies on. The hope is that those two supply lines don’t keep the two from being civil and working together. The last thing that we need is for India to blockade the free movement of crude oil, gumming up China’s energy supply, because China isn’t giving them the water they need.”
Rice can actually be a balm in such a tense situation, says Hamilton.
“One of the magnificent things is that rice forces humankind to cooperate in Asia and has so for centuries. To survive all must share water. We can solve this but must work together.
“There are only three ways to deal with water: stop growing food, start importing water and food, or start telling people to leave. There is no fourth option. Few know that 92 percent of the water used in an individual home comes in the form of food. We may not be what we eat, but most of the water we use, we eat.”