Farmers affected by rice scandal

CNC report from Hunan
Added On July 30, 2013


Farmers in central China's Hunan Province, one of the country's major grain-producing areas, are suffering huge losses despite a harvest.

With a recent scandal involving chemical-tainted rice, the farmers find it difficult to sell their grain.

Yiyang, a big rice-producing area in Hunan Province.

After months of hard work, farmers are harvesting early summer rice.

But a good yield has failed to fetch in money.

The recent scandal involving cadmium-tainted rice is to blame.

Back in March, it was found that some rice produced in Hunan had excessive amount of cadmium, a toxic industrial chemical. Three mills involved were ordered to recall their products and suspend business.

About four months on, the source of the contamination remains unclear, although deliberated adulteration has been ruled out.

Customers have labeled rice produced in Hunan as "unsafe", refusing to buy it.

Businesses are moving slowly.

Long queues like this have become a usual scene at the grain depot operated by the China Grain Reserves Corporation... Because the state-owned company buys the rice at 132 yuan per 50 kg, the highest price for farmers this summer.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) LIU GUANGQIAN, Rice farmer:
"It's really difficult to sell rice now. Only this depot in the region is still buying rice this year."

Liu says, although there're two other state-run grain depots in the area, neither will take in new rice as they still have plenty of inventory from last year.

Statistics show Yiyang has about 670,000 tons of rice in stock by the end of last month, up 22 percent from last year.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) LIU GUANGQIAN, Rice farmer:
"I haven't seen such a bad year in recent years. If the situation doesn't 8improve next year, I'll consider stopping contracting the field."

It's not only farmers, but mills are also affected.

Sun(孙) Caixi runs a middle-scale mill at Lanxi Township.

Boasting a good number of mills, Lanxi is a barometer of the local rice market.

Sun says his business is losing money.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) SUN CAIXI, Rice mill owner:
"Usually I can earn more than 200,000 yuan a year. But this year I've already lost 200,000 to 300,000 yuan."

The situation is no better for rice dealers.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) Rice dealer:
"People are talking about the scandal, about the excessive amount of cadmium. It's difficult to sell the rice, which plunges the prices. With prices so low, some farmers are unwilling to sell."

Many are considering to drop out of the business.

Zhou Jun has grown about 1,300 square meters of rice, but this year, he's still struggling to make ends meet in this five-member family. 

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) ZHOU JUN, Farmer:
"I've thought about finding a job in the cities, but it won't be easy to leave my family behind. But if I continue to stay, with prices so low this year, I cannot support my family. Anyway, I wn't grow rice next year."
He's not alone.

Li Xufang is facing the same dilemma.

Li's 160 hectares of land produces 10 tons of rice this year, but only a quarter has been sold, and at a price lower than the cost.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) LI XUFANG, Farmer:
"The tainted-rice incident has a big impact on us. It has brought down the prices. The situation would have been much worse if it weren't a harvest year."

As a province along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, Hunan produces one fifth of China's rice. But the scandal has put its reputation at stake.

Farmers as well as experts are calling for a thorough investigation as well as measures to avoid such scandals in the future.