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原文阅读:中国缘何成头号大米进口国?

According to an ancient Chinese proverb, “without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook”.

Today, housewives around China are unlikely to run short of the grain. The country, which has ample domestic supplies on the back of near record production levels, is this year set to become the largest rice importer for the first time, overtaking Nigeria.

Historically, China has been the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice. Apart from years where bad weather led to crop shortages, it has been a net exporter, shipping surplus output to Asia and Africa. In 1998, China was the fourth-largest exporter, accounting for 14 per cent of the global market, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

In the past three years, however, it has become a net importer of rice, actively buying supplies from countries including Vietnam, Pakistan and Myanmar.

The main driver behind the import rise has been Chinese mills turning to cheap overseas rice at a time when Beijing’s price support for the grain has led to high prices. Ma Wenfeng, crop analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness, says: “Since the cost for enterprises to purchase domestic rice is far higher than the cost to import rice, they prefer to import.”
 
In order to incentivise agricultural production, China has provided farmers with subsidies as well as putting in place a minimum procurement price for certain grains in order to reduce volatility in the domestic rice market. However, this has meant that domestic prices for certain agricultural products has “decoupled” from the international market.
 
Beijing’s minimum procurement price for domestic long grain rice is set at $420 per tonne, but spot prices are at about $600 per tonne, some 50 per cent higher than the Vietnamese rice benchmark.
 
In 2012, China imported 2.9m tonnes of rice compared with Nigeria’s 3.4m, and is expected to purchase 3m from overseas markets this year, overtaking the African country’s imports of 2.4m.
“China’s rice imports are largely a policy-driven phenomenon,” says Fred Gale, senior economist at USDA. “The Chinese government has used price support policies to ensure rice prices don’t fall to maintain profit margins for farmers.”
 
The country’s growing prominence in the world rice market would be worrying rice traders were it not for the recent rise in global output, including the bumper crop expected this year. Global rice production is forecast to total a record 479m tonnes for the 2013/14 crop year, thanks partly to government subsidies in leading exporting countries, including India and Thailand, according to the USDA.
 
Thailand’s official rice stockpile of 17m-18m, designed to boost farmers’ incomes, represents almost half of the world’s rice trade and is also adding to the bearishness surrounding rice prices. With the new Thai crop set to be harvested in October, Bangkok needs to dispose of its existing inventory to raise money for the new purchases and prospects of sales have weighed on rice prices.
 
Amid the bearish environment, “the few bright spots in the market include China’s growing rice imports,” says Samarendu Mohanty at the International Rice Research Institute.
 
Another reason cited by some analysts for the rise in rice imports is the recent cadmium contamination scare. Concerns about soil pollution affecting the grain from Hunan and Guangdong may have added further impetus to the buying from overseas markets, they say.
 
The main question troubling traders is whether China will remain a rice importer, as it does with other cereals, or go back to its limited role in the international arena, focusing on domestic production. The country is the world’s largest soyabean importer, and its overseas corn purchases are also growing. Heavy rains in some growing regions means that China will become the second-largest wheat importer after Egypt this crop year.
 
Mr Mohanty says that due to the country’s growing food demand, unless Beijing tries to stop overseas imports with trade barriers, “it is reasonable to assume that Chinese imports will continue in the near to medium term”.
 
However, in the face of rising agricultural imports, worries about self-sufficiency and food security have started to surface in China, with articles in the domestic press about the lack of competitiveness of the country’s agricultural sector. In another sign that officials are on alert, a Ministry of Agriculture report at the start of the year pointed to the “upside down” price phenomenon, noting the growing difference between international and domestic food commodity prices.
 
Although China has tariff rate quotas for rice imports, there have been large amounts of the grain smuggled through the borders say analysts. Ultimately, it will be international prices that will determine the level of China’s rice imports. “The future flow of rice depends on whether supplier countries continue to have lower prices than China’s,” says Mr Gale.

学习指南:

1.Word of the day

procurementthe process of obtaining supplies of something, especially for a government or an organization (尤指为政府或机构)采购,购买

2.Phrase of the day

upside downin or into a position in which the top of something is where the bottom is normally found and the bottom is where the top is normally found 颠倒;倒转;翻转

ex:The painting looks like it's upside down to me. 
例句:在我看来这幅画好像是上下颠倒了。

3.Sentence of the day

Thailand’s official rice stockpile of 17m-18m, designed to boost farmers’ incomes, represents almost half of the world’s rice trade and is also adding to the bearishness surrounding rice prices.
为增加泰国农民收入,泰国官方将大米储备量定在1700万到1800万吨,接近世界大米贸易量的一半,这增加了水稻价格的下行压力。

小编注:bearish这个词对于熟悉证券市场的读者来说应该是很熟悉的了。意思为熊市,看跌的。

e.g:Japanese banks remain bearish. 
例句:日本银行继续看跌。

你能猜到它的反义词吗?没错,就是bullish。

4.Cultural point of the day

tariff rate quotas关税配额是一种进口国限制进口货物数量的措施。 进口国对进口货物数量制定一数量限制,对于凡在某一限额内进口的货物可以适用较低的税率或免税,但关税配额对于超过限额后所进口的货物则适用较高或一般的税率。严格地说,关税配额由于其对进口货物的总量并不作明确的规定,所以并非属于配额的一种。

5.Translation of the day

According to an ancient Chinese proverb, “without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook”.
中国有句老话:“巧妇难为无米之炊。”

小编注:在翻译时,谚语和俗语是非常难翻的。在翻译谚语时,有两种常见的方式——“直译”和“意译”。一般情况下,我们是推荐采用“直译”的。因为翻译除了让读者读懂外文的意思以外,更重要的是表达原作的意思,以及原文背后的文化内涵。比如说,英语里有一句俗语“if he does sth, even pigs can fly”,有的译文会把它翻译成“要是他做了某事,太阳都从西边升起来了”,看似天衣无缝,意思非常准确,但读起来显然就失去了那种新奇的感觉。建议直译为“要是他做了某事,猪都能飞起来了”,显然比前一种翻译更令人眼前一亮,意思也并不难理解。另一个例子是中文中的“如鱼得水”这个成语,在英文中有一个现成的对应语“like a duck to water”,在这里到底是如鱼得水还是如鸭得水并不是重点所在,所以没有必要纠结于鱼还是鸭的问题,让读者顺畅阅读才是最重要的。可见,直译还是意译的选择,是需要译者酌情判断的。

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