The Chinese Market and Thai Fragrant Jasmine Rice: Why does China, the world's largest rice producer, import rice from Thailand?

Author Name MIYATA Toshiyuki  (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)
Creation Date/NO. January 2011 11-J-005
Research Project The Rise of China and the Transformation of the East Asian Regional Order
Download / Links


In 2008, the world experienced a sharp increase in rice prices due to destabilization of international rice demand and supply. Under these circumstances, rice exports from Thailand—the world's top rice exporter—and Thai rice export prices increased dramatically, but the amount of high-quality fragrant Jasmine rice exported to China decreased by some 30% over the previous year. This paper examines why, amidst increasing world rice prices and expansion of the Thai rice export market overall, the export of fragrant Jasmine rice from Thailand to China dropped so dramatically. In fact, China is the world's top rice producer, and one of the world's top rice exporters. However, China also imports rice, albeit only several hundred thousand tons annually. Some 90% of China's rice imports are from Thailand, the majority of which is high-quality Jasmine rice. Meanwhile, due to expansion of the Chinese economy and change in eating habits of middle- and high-income groups in Chinese society, more than 80% of Thailand's Jasmine rice exported to China is demanded in southern China, especially, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. However, in 2008, amidst rising world rice prices, exports of fragrant rice from Thailand to China showed a sharp decrease. This paper summarizes the expansion of Thai-produced rice exports to China after 2000 and the rapid drop in such exports in 2008 and analyzes some of the problems found in China's rice business, such as the misuse of trademarks and the mixing of Thai-produced and China-produced fragrant rice in China.