Among all the cultivated cereals, rice and wheat are among the most important as the leading food sources for humankind. However, rice is consumed by a higher percentage of people across the globe-almost half of the world’s population. Rice is cultivated in over 100 countries in the world.
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However, the about 95% of the cultivated crop is not only grown but also consumed in the Asian countries. Research has shown that rice provides for 60% of the food intake in South-East Asia. In the Eastern and Southern parts of Asia, it accounts for 35% of the food intake.
The countries that have recorded the highest levels of per capita consumption of rice include Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Laos and Burma. Other parts of the world that have embraced the rice culture include Africa and South America. As far as trade is concerned, rice is one of the most traded basic foodstuffs in the world. Since the introduction of rice in Japan, the Japanese have shown a significant attachment to the cereal in many aspects which it has protected up to date.
The origin of rice in Asia
The cultivation of rice is a potent symbol of civilisation for many of the Asian nations. According to the preliminary findings by a team of Chinese and Japanese archeologists, the practice of rice cultivation may have first occurred along the middle Yangtze River in central China.
A detailed study carried out by an environmental archeologist, Syuichi Toyama, at Japan’s Kogakukan University helped in the clarification of the findings. He surveyed both the published and the unpublished radiocarbon data on 125 samples of rice grains, plant remains as well as impressions of rice grains in pottery for more than a hundred sites along 5400 KM of the Yangtze River (Normile 309).
His findings showed that the oldest samples (with a median age of 11, 000 years) are clustered along the middle Yangtze in Hubei and Hunan provinces. This provides evidence that rice cultivation originated from the middle Yangtze River from where it spread to the rest of the Asian countries.
In Japan, rice seems to have been cultivated first in the southern island of Kyushu about 2,400 years ago (400BC), presumably having been introduced from the Yangtze region and gradually spread northwards (Latham 2; Jintong 108). The expansion of rice cultivation across the Asian continent continued even in the 20th century.
Although rice had been in Korea for almost 2000 years, it was not the staple food since they depended among other grains and foods. As late as the 1920s, only a third of the cultivated fields were under wet rice-the economy depended on dry rice and field crops like millet and soybean. When the Japanese colonial government carried out a programme to increase rice production in the Korean Peninsula, rice culture reached its fullest development in Korea.
The earliest forms of cultivated forms of rice are thought to have been indicas that developed from wild ancestors in the Northern and Eastern India, Northern and South-East Asia and Southern China. Both kinds of rice continued to be grown in China where they were noted in the earliest Chinese dictionary of AD 100 (Totman 96).
The colonial powers in Asia had long maintained agricultural research stations. In the 1870s, the Japanese too established agricultural research stations as part of their thrust for modernisation and development. It was that in the 1920s when they found the rice in their colony of Taiwan not to their taste, they encouraged the local farmers to adopt high yielding species-japonicas.
In the South and South-East Asia, irrigation facilities were greatly extended in the colonial period with the British, Dutch and French heavily investing in irrigation. In India, the great grain-growing region of the Punjab was developed towards the end of the 18th century with irrigation facilities.
There were many other irrigation schemes in other parts. There was also great expansion of the irrigated rice land in the East Asia. Most of the rice growing lands in Japan were irrigated in 1868 and by the outbreak of the Second World War so were two thirds of rice lands in their colonies in Taiwan and Korea.
Rice yields were running at an average of 2.5 metric tons per hectare even though modern fertilizers were not used. A similar situation existed in the major rice growing regions of South China. However, there was less of the rice growing flood plains of South and South-East Asia where even by the end of the Second World War irrigation provision had barely started.
The spread of rice in Asia through Trade
Trade in rice dates back to the ancient times. As early as AD 900-1000, there was long distance trade in rice in China along the Yangzi and other major rivers in South Asia; availability of water transport and hence cheap freight costs being crucial. Research has shown that by 1200 AD, ocean-going junks were carrying rice to Indochina. In the course of time, Exports gave way to imports and by 1720, rice was being imported to the Yangtze delta not only from the central Yangtze region but also from Taiwan (Latham 28).
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International rice trade was attained towards the end of the 18th century, which continued to the 19th century. During that time, Bengal, under British control, was a major exporter of rice particularly to Sri Lanka, which was also under the British rule. Burma (Myanmar) emerged as a major exporter of rice in the region with much of her rice going to Britain and other European countries (Sabillon 301).
Some of the rice going to the Britain was re-exported to the Caribbean countries, America, continental Europe and the Mediterranean. As the population grew in Bengal, more of the annual crop was consumed there and less left for export so Burma’s export expanded to other countries e.g. Ceylon.
Demand for Burma rice was also growing in Malaya where there was an increasing number of Indian laborers employed in the rice plantations up-country. Consequently, Burma emerged as one of the World’s great rice exporters. The rice production in Burma (in the Irrawaddy delta) was paralleled in two of the other great delta regions in Asia i.e. the Chao Phraya delta in Thailand and the Mekong delta in the French Indo-China (Vietnam).
Rice form the latter regions was preferred by the Chinese migrants who established themselves all over South-East Asia. Some of the rice in Bangkok and Saigon regions of China was exported to Singapore. Some of the rice received in Singapore was trans-shipped to Indonesia.
The two main rice distribution centers were Hong Kong and Singapore, which played a pivotal role in the shipping of rice to Japan, Hawaii, California and Philippines. This pattern of trade continued in the early years of the twentieth century, through to the 1920s.
The depression had a devastating impact on the rice market. There was continued expansion of the area under rice in the three great exporting countries, but the prices began to fall in 1926. Nonetheless, the year 1920 saw excellent crops. High yields in rice continued until 1933.
This coincided with a series of good wheat harvest. During the same year, the prices of both grains fell drastically as world grain markets were glutted. With the collapse of the rice prices, the depression came into Asia. Major rice-trading companies failed and so did the agricultural banks.
The various governments tried to isolate themselves from the depression opting out of the world market. They resorted to import controls as well as import substitution. The freedom of the world rice market was the major casualty. As early as 1921, the Japanese government in response to rice shortage of 119-1921 had tried to stimulate domestic production while keeping prices down. In 1933, they imposed duties to keep out the cheap foreign rice.
They began a policy of government purchasing to raise prices and increase domestic production. However, it did not take long before they were faced by warehousing problems. Towards the end of the 1930s, the government took control of the rice markets and licensed all the brokers as well as rice dealers.
In the American colony of the Philippines rice control was introduced in 1936. The government corporation bought paddy, milled it and distributed it. By doing so, they excluded the Chinese brokers and millers an aspect that helped in the control of the prices for not only the farmers but also for the consumers.
A similar policy was formulated in Siam where the government by-passed the Chinese distributers by buying direct from the farmers. Siam used the profits to set colonies of Thai farmers free from debt to Chinese rice merchants. In China, import duties were raised to prevent imports. In French and Indochina, export duties were put in place to prevent exports. With the import and export controls operating simultaneously, the international rice trade came virtually to a halt.
The Asian governments, both colonial and non-colonial sought to achieve self-sufficiency as a response to the shock of the depression. After the Second World War, governments continued control over rice. Initially, Burma, Indochina and Thailand resumed their roles as major rice exporters.
However, when Burma became independent the government held prices to such a low level that incentive for farmers to produce rice was reduced. Consequently, Burma gradually faded of the international market and moved towards economic isolation. Exports plunged in 1966 and remained low for many years. In Indochina, the chaos in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia turned this major exporting region into a major importer.
Only Thailand remained a leading exporter, and its government remained in control. The most significant circumstance in the rice trade in the post war world was the emergence of the United States as a major exporter. Vietnam was a major beneficiary of the United States’ exports.
Rice in other parts of the world
Rice is also believed to be ancient staple food for communities in West Africa. It was grown along the Gambia River , the Upper Guinea Coast as well as the Senegal River in 16th century. The domestication of rice in West Africa was not widely known until the 20th century.
Owing to this, descriptions of rice before the 20th century assumed all rice to be sativa– rice of Asian origin. Certain characteristics of African rice distinguish it from sativa. One is the red color of the African rice, glaberrima, bran. It shifts between purple and black hues in different varieties. Although some sativa types are also red, they occur over a limited geographical area in Asia.
During the colonial period in America, the African rice was introduced to America-Carolina through a slave shipment solicited by Thomas Jefferson in 1790. He hoped to reverse the Carolina emphasis on tidal rice to upland cultivation. He believed wet rice to be crop of mixed value since the whole country needed to be laid under water annually an aspect that caused pestilential fevers to many inhabitants. Jefferson initiated rain-fed rice cultivation in America.
He did so by the adoption of the red glaberrima rice of the upland-inland farming system cultivated in the Southern portion of the West African rice region. Jefferson called the rain-fed rice Oryza mutica due to the apparent shortness of the plant. One of the challenges that the Americans faced with the African rice was the milling process, which was rather hard.
Despite the Linnaean classification of rice as of Asian origin, Jefferson believed mutica to be a species much harder to mill than other types. Jefferson believed that the greatest service, which can be rendered to any country, is the addition of a useful plant to its culture. He used this statement in reference to rice.
From Carolina, the African rice spread to other states e.g. Georgia through trade. Historical sources from Brazil dating to the period prior to the 18th century provide numerous references to rice including a red type (Oryza mutica)grown along the food plains of the Amazon river and in low lying swamps. Some colonial authorities promoted the cultivation of this rice. The glaberrina/ Oryza mutica spread in various locales of the 18th century Americas.
Red rice emerges in the commentaries from the second half of the 18th century when Portugal attempted to establish a rice plantation system in the Eastern Amazon of Brazil. Slaves imported from Africa provided the labor in the plantations. The year 1767 witnessed the first exports of the milled rice to Portugal (Judith 151).
The cultivation of red rice aroused repeated official concern. In a 1772 decree, the Portuguese colonial administration mandated a year’s jail sentence for the whites who planted the red rice and two years of imprisonment for the slaves and Indians who did so. Portugal was trying to build a rice plantation economy that would reduce the metropole’s dependence on imports from South Carolina. The red rice also spread to many regions of the world through trade.
The original rice farmers grew their rice in swamps. Subsequently, rice has been grown in tropical rainfall areas or close to rivers, which seasonally overflow their banks. It is clear that irrigation provides the most effective system for growing rice. Irrigation means not only supplying water but also draining water when necessary. The supply and control of water is necessary if high yields are to be achieved.
In Malaya, the British introduced the irrigation schemes. In Java, the British and Dutch were also active in the provision of irrigation schemes for rice both in the 19th and early 20th century. There was also great expansion of irrigated rice land in East Asia.
Most of the rice growing areas in Japan were irrigated by 1868, and by the outbreak of the Second World War so were two-thirds of the rice lands in their colonies of Taiwan and Korea. As opposed to the sativa species, the red rice (mutica) species is a dry land species and can do in areas with some climatic hardships. However, under optimum conditions the sativa species produces high yields.
The history of rice in Japan
From the ancient times, rice has been one of the most esteemed cereal in Japan. In Japanese language, gohan refers to cooked rice. The actual meaning of the word is ‘honorable food’ indicating the value that the Japanese attached to the cereal. Research has shown that although rice was not the primary element in the Japanese diet in the ancient times, the people used it as a form of money.
The value of rice in the Japanese community continued for many years that “even after money had entered the Japanese economy, samurai warriors were paid not in gold, silver or copper but in fixed amounts of rice” (Hayami 125). In 1993, there was an acute shortage of the crop in Japan.
Consequently, the government was compelled to import rice from other nations (Shogenji 210). The consumers’ reaction was a clear indication that they were not prepared to do without their favorite brand (Japanese) as long as they could access a limited amount. In addition, during that period reports that some mice were found in the shipment created a lot of dissatisfaction about the consumption of imported rice.
Most of the Japanese had heard the rumor that foreign farmers made heavy, indiscriminate use of insecticides and that shipments were treated with strong chemicals to prevent the deterioration of the product. This also played an important role in lowering the Japanese demand of foreign rice. Knecht says that “for many Japanese, rice is not nay rice and rice is not mere food” (6).
For a very long time in Japan, not all people even the small scale farmers who produced the grain would afford to eat enough of rice. This is considered the root of the Japanese tradition of eating even the last grain of rice served to them since according to them, it is ill mannered to leave rice in their plate (Francks et al. 120). However, during the Edo era, which lasted from 1603 to 1868, the scarcity of rice to the majority of the population decreased.
Although not all the villages in Japan are actively involved in the production of rice, everyone has a constant supply of the cereal in the country. For instance, amid the steep mountains of Shikoku, people do not have rice plantations but they rice is still there staple food. The land consists of patches of cleared mountain forest that were made into dry fields.
The availability of rice to such areas was attributed to the food rationing policy of the Japanese government (Estudillo 83). It had been existence until sometime during the Second World War. According to Knecht, being in a position to eat rice or not is not necessarily a consequence of the environment where one lives; it can simply be the result of government policy i.e. an act of authority (16).
The Staple Food Control Act of 1942enabled was the most significant factor that ensured that every household in Japan ate rice regularly. The government issued the policy during the time when Japan’s war effort was about to reach its peak i.e. the Second World War (Tokoyama et al. 180; Suzuki 28).
The primary role of the act was to ensure that there was sufficient supply of rice to the fighting soldiers. Additionally, it was to provide an equal distribution of the rice to the noncombatant citizens to keep them healthy. In the Japanese culture during that time, health meant more than the physical well-being of the society-it also meant social stability.
Therefore, the purpose of the act was to keep the power base of the government as well as the political system intact and undisturbed. In other words, the Staple Food Act of 1942 served to ensure that Japan became a ‘culture of rice’ in the sense that the government delivered rice to everyone in the country thus controlling the country.
The attachment of Japan to rice
As far as foreign products are concerned, the Japanese have a strong affection for most of the products but they feel differently when it comes to rice.. Their attachment to the domestic rice can be attributed to several factors.
During the feudal era, the size of the territory of a feudal lord, daimyo, was stated in terms of annual yield or rice in his land. Additionally, during that time land taxes were determined by the number of kokus of rice (the koku was the economic measurement of rice). Therefore, rice was the fundamental economic product. Research has shown that most of the people in Japan are still family farmers. This greatly affected the liberalisation of the rice market.
Group orientation of the rice farmers
As aforementioned, rice farming means more than just food and the opportunity to earn a living in the Japanese community. It is one of the most important aspects in the Japanese tradition of group activity. During its growth period, rice farming requires a relatively large amount of water for irrigation. In the ancient times, water could not be controlled without the cooperation of the entire village. To become not only successful but also efficient rice producers, the members of a given community and/or village had to think and act together.
Religious value of rice in Japan
Though it might be difficult for difficult for individuals to understand its importance, rice farming is a significant factor in the Japanese community as far as religion is concerned. The religious attachment of the Japanese to rice has evolved through centuries of history and tradition.
Rice is an important cereal in most of the Japanese religious celebrations. It is the main offering during Shinto and Buddhist rituals. It is noteworthy that rice products including sake are the most sacred of offerings in the Shinto religion. Additionally, the Japanese Emperor plants rice in his palace garden on an annual basis as one of the most important royal ceremonies.
Despite the erosion of most of the Japanese traditional lifestyle aspects by westernisation, they still have a strong feeling that cooked rice is their staple food and that rice and the Japanese are inseparable. Therefore, religion made rice an integral part of the Japanese community or rather culture.
Government created tradition
In Japanese schools, domestic rice forms the major part of the lunch menu. The justification for the incorporation of domestic rice in schools stems from a government created tradition. Although Japan has always had shortages in grain products, it has always had an over-supply of rice.
To ensure efficient disposal of rice, the Japanese government introduced rice into school lunch programmes in the 1970s. To ensure the adoption of the effort in all schools, the government stressed that eating domestic grown rice would enhance their understanding of the country’s agricultural tradition.
The political significance of rice
Rice farmers have been the target of most politicians for many years. The strength of rice farming in Japan has been demonstrated by its ability to bring together the strongest of opponents in politics-the Liberal democrats and the Social Democrats. It is particularly significant to the Liberal Democrats since they rely heavily on the votes of the rice farmers.
Owing to this, they have been in the frontline as far as the opposition of rice imports is concerned. Over the last few decades, it has become increasingly clear that opening Japan’s rice market would be helpful in enhancing the success of the nation’s agriculture as well as its economy. However, many of the politicians are very reluctant to let go of the political power they have had for years.
Rice is not only an important component of the Japanese religion and culture but it is also a symbol of the nation’s independence. Japan imports most its foods such as meat, fruits and fish. It is noteworthy that Japan is only 30% self sufficient in its cereal products. The Japanese government considers it crucial or rather necessary to maintain this level in its staple capacity.
Health standards, taste and image
The Japanese community appreciates quality standards in all dimensions, which includes that quality of their staple food-rice. In 1992, the Japan Times conducted a street poll in Tokyo to assess the Japanese preference for rice. The results showed that they considered taste and purity as the two most important parameters as a far as the quality of rice is concerned. The price and brand name came in the third and fourth position respectively.
Additionally, the Japanese consumers are concerned about the type and levels of the chemicals used during the production as well as the processing and preservation of rice. They are also concerned about the health hazards that the commodity may have.
For instance, when rumors were spread that imported rice was inferior in quality, had high levels of pesticide residues besides having dead rats, they understandably preferred to pay more for the domestic rice than the imported rice. This explains why despite GATT being able to introduce foreign rice to Japan, foreign rice is still not popular among Japanese consumers.
Threats to Japanese rice culture
The rice market across Asia became competitive after most of the nations began exporting their rice products causing economic hardships to all the rice-producing nations. It was a painful experience for the rice farmers. This called for the efforts of the nations to protect domestic rice producers from cheap foreign competition.
Japan’s government increased the price of rice to more than eight times the world market’s price in the 1980s. This significantly affected most of the other aspects of the Japanese economy such as land process, labor, foreign trade and rural investments. It has had an impact to the international community. For instance, the closed border for rice in the country exacerbated tensions within the United States, which is one of the countries that have a surplus in rice besides its deficit with Japan (Timmer 149).
If the rice cultivation were eradicated from the Japanese agricultural system, it would be accompanied by a wide-ranging disappearance of Japan’s traditional culture. It is the major reason as to why the Japanese government has never allowed the liberalisation of rice imports in the country (Dey et al. 119).
There has been a lot of economic friction about the role of rice in the Japanese economy as well as in the international scale. The 1993 rice failure was caused by the worst weather that the Japanese had ever experienced in 40 years (Yim-Yu 49). Rice prices increased to levels of nearly 2.5 times normal.
Accordingly, the Japanese government made an historic decision on 30 September 1993 to import rice on an emergency basis. Study has shown that this was the fourth time that Japan had imported rice from the U.S since World War II. In 1997, there was an argument between the Japanese government, the bureaucrats and farmers cooperatives against the United States.
They were saying that rice is one of the major national security parameters of the Japanese government or that the nation was self sufficient in rice. Lu asserts that “the course that Japan must adopt is to declare that rice cultivation belongs to Japan’s consecrated ground and it cannot be placed as an object of economic friction” (Lu 599). After the 1993 crop failure, rice farming has been strongly protected by import restriction as well as other domestic policies (Takahashi 680).
Measure(s) taken by Japan to protect its rice culture
Rice as a major source of trade disputes between Japan and the US
Except for 1995, Japan’s trade surplus exhibited an increasing trend. During the same period, although the US merchandise and service exports of Japan had some significant increase, the trade deficit with Japan continued to increase. The U.S deficit caused an increase of the accusations against Japan’s trade barriers. The barriers include tariffs, subsidising of its local production of rice, quotas as well as dumping practice.
Although the Japanese protected markets have for a long time been a major problem for the global trade, there have been some developments as far as the rice market is concerned. Originally, one of the most protected Japanese markets, the rice market was among the first to be opened to the rest of the world. However, it continues to present serious problems for the international market managers.
Due to Japan’s large consumption of rice, its rice-based product markets have been of major interest to other rice producing countries including the U.S. For instance, in the 1990s, the average price of foreign rice in Japan was $1.52 lb, which was 1.47 times the price in the U.S (Yim-Yu 47).
Foreign interest in the Japanese rice market has been so strong that some of the major bodies in the U.S seem willing to forego the US government subsidies if the government can somehow open up Japan’s rice market. Some of the bodies include the Rice Growers Association of California, the California Rice Promotion Board as well as the California Rice Industry.
The protection of agricultural products especially rice is not an exclusive phenomenon to Japan. Research has shown that the European Union and U.S have more quantitative restrictions on agricultural imports than Japan.
During the Second World War, Japan imported a significant quantity of rice mainly from China to supplement its domestic supply. After the enactment of the 1942 Staple Food Act, there has been no buying or selling of rice in the private sector. In 1962, Japan announced that it would be fully self-sufficient in rice.
By the end of the 1960s, Japan seemed to have achieved this goal. In the beginning of the following decade i.e. the 1970s, the Japanese government illegalised the private import and export of rice as well as its private distribution. Although the government broadened the Staple Food Control Act in 1988, Japanese consumers believed that the act still limited competition very much besides discouraging cost cutting efforts similar to those implemented in other countries.
Factors that led to the liberalisation of the Japanese Rice Market
In 1994, rice production accounted for over 30% of the nation’s agricultural production. Other than the 1993 historical failure of rice in Japan, other factors brought the Japanese rice market to its climax. Firstly, the Japanese government sought to protect the free trade system under GATT.
GATT regulations made Japan to adopt strict regulatory measures as far as the rice market is concerned. Towards the end of 1993, GATT’s Chief Peter Sutherland took advantage of Japan’s crop failure and urged it to convert quotas and other restrictions entirely into tariffs including Japan’s ban on rice imports (Yim-Yu 50).
In response, the Japanese government denied and stated that the opening of the market was a correction of its protectionist stance. It was rather in the spirit of the cooperation with GATT’s international free trade objective.
The Japanese had a more liberal attitude towards trade. The small farms as well as the soaring price of arable land made it clear that the reforms in the Agricultural system were overdue. The process was also aided by the influence of the politicians. Many of the politicians began to support market liberalisation in order to lure voter support.
Prior to the 1993 crop failure, the Japanese foreign minister and agricultural administration had developed policies (in 1992) in preparation for the liberalisation of the nation’s agricultural sector. In a number of different opinion polls conducted prior to 1993, an increasing number of farmers as well as Japanese consumers had expressed their views in favor for the liberalisation of the rice market. Furthermore, one of the influential public figures, Prime Minister Hosokawa, supported the liberalisation of the rice market.
Under the 1942 Staple Food Control Act, the government was given the mandate to supervise the distribution as well as the sale of rice. Research has shown that during the five decades that followed the adoption of the Act, the central government’s practice of selling rice grew ineffective (Hareau 6). Additionally, the multi-layered state-affiliated distribution system became very costly to the consumers. For instance, the Japanese consumers paid nearly six times the world price for rice.
This resulted in a major black market in rice that accounts for approximately 16% of rice production. Another 33% is attributed to direct selling by farmers to wholesalers in contravention of the government policy. To cope with direct selling as well as the black market, the Japanese government had been relaxing its monopoly control of rice marketing and permitting higher quality branded rice products. This approach is deemed to enhance market liberalisation.
In 1992, there was a growing concern in the Japanese government that a change in U.S Policy would have a direct impact on the Japanese rice market. The concern was fostered by the election of William Clinton as president since he was the former governor of the largest rice-producing state in America-Arkansas.
The U.S focus on Japanese rice market intensified towards the end of 1992 following the resolution of the dispute between the U.S and the European Community over agricultural subsidies. The opening of the Japanese rice market would be interpreted as giving in or rather bowing to the United States’ pressure.
Rice in the 21st century
In the 21st century, rice still remains the most important source of calories for more than 3 billion inhabitants in the world. Research has shown that it supplies 21% of the calories for the world population. In Asia where more than 90% of the world’s rice is grown and consumed, at least 30% of the daily caloric intake is from rice.
A significant proportion of rice consumers are the 250 million small-scale farmers who grow rice in Asia and consume half of their own production. Planted in 250 million hectares of land every year, rice remains the second most cultivated crop (in area) after wheat but the first in terms of food production.
In Asia, China is the largest rice producer harvesting 190 million metric tons in 2000. It is followed by India, which produced 132 million metric tons, and Indonesia with 52 metric tons during the same year. Unlike in the 18th century, most of the irrigated rice is grown on bounded fields that guarantee the continuing water supply to the rice crop from either rainfall or irrigation during both dry and rainy seasons.
Rice is one of the most important cereals not only in the Asian economy but also to the rest of the world. Research has shown that it originated from the Yangtze River in China from where it spread to the rest of the Asian region as well as the world. Trade played a pivotal role in the spread of the cereal throughout Asia.
West Africa is also recognised has the origin of the red rice. In Japan, rice has been an important component of the people’s culture with quality and brand as the most important parameters of the cereal. From 1965 to 1994, Japanese rice consumption averaged approximately 11 billion tons per year. Besides being a source of food, the traditional cultivation of rice has played a pivotal role in the shaping of the landscape.
The maintenance of the paddy fields is a vital contribution to the ecology. In addition, rice is the symbol of not only self but also nation, purity and force of life. Since it is an important part of the Japanese culture, the Japanese government has always sought to protect its rice market. In the 21st century, rice has remained the most consumed agricultural product in the world with China being not only the leading producer of rice but also the country that has the highest consumption of rice per capita.
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