Citing Food Safety Concerns, Wealthy Chinese Turn to Imported Japanese Rice over Local Staple

A staple of the Chinese diet has become a luxury import for those who can afford it

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Food safety concerns have created a market for expensive Japanese rice over local alternatives.  

Wealthy Chinese consumers have begun turning to Japan for their rice supply, supplanting rice available from domestic producers, spurred by their “dwindling confidence in the safety of the country's own agricultural produce,” reports Reuters.

For those who can afford to do so, the idea of turning rice into a luxury import is increasingly more palatable as the country continues to battle a poor record of food safety, which has also forced consumers to turn elsewhere for milk and baby formula.

According to records from Japan's National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, the volume of rice exported to China remains small compared to other areas, yet records indicate more than triple the exported total from 2013, when officials in the Guangdong province measured excess levels of cadmium in 44 percent of rice samples as a result of pollution from heavy industrialization. In some parts of the country, rice farmers have refused to eat what they grow, reports Reuters.

At the time, some Chinese turned to rice from Thailand as a safe alternative, but the new attention to Japanese rice, which is expensive and not readily available, reflects a willingness to upgrade a staple of the Chinese diet.

Already, online platforms have attempted to facilitate easier access to Japanese rice, including Taobao, a platform operated by Alibaba, where one person allegedly paid 1,499 yuan (approximately $240) for five kilograms (approximately 11 pounds) of Japanese rice. 

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