China to be world's biggest importer of rice in 2013

Aug 24, 2013 12:00 AM

China's annual imports of rice and wheat are set to be the world's biggest in 2013 on the back of its rapid economic growth, recently released estimates showed.

China will also likely be the world's largest importer of crude oil in 2014, replacing the United States, while Asia's biggest economy is already the No. 1 importer of soybeans, cotton and iron ore, amid some concerns that global prices of food and natural resources would be further affected by its robust demand.

China's imports of rice in 2012 quadrupled from the previous year to 2.4 million tons. In 2013, they are set to reach 3.2 million tons -- surpassing those of Nigeria to become the biggest in the world -- and in 2014 a record 3.4 million tons, according to estimates released in mid-August by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although China is the biggest producer of rice, harvesting more than 200 million tons in 2012, the pace of purchases from low-cost suppliers, including Vietnam and Myanmar, has been increasing in recent years.

Its imports of wheat in 2012 nearly tripled from the previous year to 3.68 million tons and are likely to become the world's biggest in 2014, overtaking those of Egypt, the official China Daily reported earlier this month, citing industry experts.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, meanwhile, said on Aug. 9 that China is projected to top the United States in net oil imports in October and become the world's biggest importer on an annual basis in 2014.

China turned into a net oil importer in 1993, and partly because more and more people in the country have started driving cars its reliance on oil imports increased from 20 percent to nearly 60 percent over the decade.

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