爱思英语编者按:东南亚国家在2011年10月签署一项增加地区大米储备的协议,以便帮助该地区免于价格波动的影响,但分析师表示,为保证长期食品安全,这些国家仍需提升长农业投资。

Rice in Asia

亚洲的稻米

Paddy-whacked

不堪折腾的稻田

By meddling in the market for rice, Asian governments make their own citizens poorer
亚洲政府干预水稻市场,人们叫苦不迭
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1. NEARLY 16% of Indonesia’s 250m people survive on $1.90 a day or less, as do more than 6% of Cambodia’s 15m people. In both countries, rice is the staple crop, providing more than half the daily calories of the poor. That puts needy Cambodians at a distinct advantage: between January of last year and April of this, the average wholesale cost of a kilo of rice in Cambodia was roughly $0.40, while in Indonesia it was nearly $0.70.
印尼和柬埔寨,稻米是主要作物,是穷人每天主要的热量来源。印尼人口2.5亿,柬埔寨人口1500万。在印尼,将近16%的人每天生活费不超过1.90美元,6%多的柬人口也是如此。这样,贫困的柬埔寨人优势明显:去年1月至今年4月,柬埔寨每公斤大米的平均批发价仅为0.40美元,而印尼将近0.70美元。
2. There are a few reasons why rice is more expensive in Indonesia. For one, it is a net importer, whereas Cambodia grows more than it needs. Indonesia is also a far-flung archipelago with abysmal infrastructure, which raises transport costs. But David Dawe of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a division of the United Nations, has found that transport costs account for only a small share of the gap in prices. Instead, the culprit is policy.
印尼稻米价格更高原因很多。其一,印尼是纯稻米进口国,而柬有节余。同时,印尼还是群岛国家,基础设施落后,提高了运费。粮农组织(FAO)是联合国的一个部门。该组织的大卫•达维发现,价差巨大,运费不是主要因素,政策才是真凶。
3. Like many Asian countries, Indonesia wants to be self-sufficient in rice. But as well as trying to help farmers become competitive through investments in agriculture and infrastructure, its government, like others in the region, manipulates the rice market through a welter of subsidies, tariffs and other support mechanisms for domestic producers (see table). These interventions, though well-intentioned, raise prices for consumers and harm the region’s poorest people.
跟很多亚洲国家一样,印尼想要实现稻米自给。一方面,政府投资农业和基础设施,尽力帮助农民提升竞争力。另一方面,也像亚洲其它政府一样,补贴农业,征收关税,并对国内稻农实施维护机制(见图表)。这些干预虽然善意,但对消费者来说,价格提高了,还伤害了亚洲最贫穷的人。
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4. Asia consumes 90% of the world’s rice. It is used to make flour, noodles and puddings. Babies and the elderly survive on rice gruel. Steaming rice porridge is eaten for breakfast in skyscraping hotels in Hong Kong and rustic village kitchens in Hunan. Alcohol made from rice—be it sake in Japan or rice whiskey in Thailand—is swilled deep into the night in karaoke parlours and roadside stalls.
But rice is not just a culinary mainstay: it has religious and cultural uses across the continent. It appears on Buddhist altars and in offerings to deceased ancestors; farmers pray to gods who govern rice before the harvest and thank them afterward. In many Asian languages the verb “to eat” literally means “to eat rice”.
亚洲消耗世界90%的稻米。人们把它制成米粉,挂面以及布丁。孩子和老人主要喝粥。不论湖南质朴的乡间厨房,还是香港高耸的酒店,人们早饭都喝热气腾腾的粥。稻米可以提炼酒精,日本叫清酒,泰国叫威士忌。不论是路边的小摊,还是卡拉OK厅,人们痛饮着这些酒,直至深夜。在亚洲,稻米不仅仅是一种食材,还有宗教意义和文化意义。人们把它摆上佛坛,祭祀祖先;向农神祈求丰收,之后还愿。亚洲很多语言,动词“吃”的字面意思就是“吃饭”。
5. Its ubiquity and cultural centrality make rice far more important politically than any other food. Every country believes its own rice superior: Thais love the fragrance of the local jasmine rice; Indians extol the fluffiness of basmati; Japanese rave about the delicate texture of koshihikari from Niigata prefecture. Having to rely on foreign rice seems to many a cultural affront.
稻米随处可见,并具文化向心性的特点。这让稻米比其它任何一种粮食具有更大的政治意义。每个国家都相信自己国家的稻米更胜一筹:泰国人喜爱泰国香米的清香;印度人赞扬着印度香米的松软;日本人乐道于新泻县越光米质地均匀。被迫依赖于进口大米好像是对本国文化的侮辱。
6. The early adoption of especially productive strains during the Green Revolution briefly helped Indonesia and the Philippines to achieve self-sufficiency in rice in the 1980s, but for most of the past century they have been importers. The rice-exporting countries on the mainland have a big competitive advantage, in the form of large river deltas, which offer the perfect setting for growing rice and a handy means of transporting it. Peninsular, island and archipelagic countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines lack vast tracts of flat, swampy land. Their farmers produce more rice per hectare, but have a far smaller area under cultivation.
上个世纪的多数时间里,印尼和菲律宾的稻米是进口的。1980年代,环保革命期间,印尼和菲律宾很早便引进了高产稻株,稻米短暂地实现了自给。亚洲大陆的竞争优势很大:大块儿的三角洲既让运输便捷,又是种植稻米的完美地形。印尼、马来西亚和菲律宾分别是半岛、岛屿和群岛国家,缺乏大面积的湿地平原。虽然亩产量较高,但栽种面积太小。
7. Many governments look back with fear to the rice-price spike of 2007-08, seeing it as a reason to build up domestic production so that they are not dependent on a fickle international market. In fact, the rice market is fairly stable: production has largely matched or exceeded population-growth rates in Asia. And global rice prices are no more volatile than those of the other two global staples, wheat and maize (corn), which also shot up in 2007-08.
2007至2008年间,米价到了最高。很多政府担心于此,就以此为理由来提高本国稻米的产量,不再依靠变化无常的国际市场。其实,亚洲的稻米市场是非常稳定的:产量已经远远匹配或者超过了人口增长。全球的稻米价格与世界其它两大作物(小麦和玉米)价格同样稳定。但2007至2008年,小麦和玉米也提高了价格。
8. But wheat prices rose because of weather-induced shortages and maize prices jumped because of increased demand for ethanol production. Rice prices shot up because governments panicked. India restricted exports, which sent the international price soaring. The Philippines, which had low government rice-stocks but ample private stocks and was on the verge of a record harvest, nonetheless bought massive quantities of Vietnamese rice at above-market prices. That helped spur a run on rice in Vietnam. Thailand mulled restricting exports and creating a rice-exporting cartel, inspired by OPEC, with Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. Elsewhere, smaller exporters cut exports while importers and farmers hoarded. Prices did not start falling until the second half of 2008, when Vietnam, Japan and Thailand all said they would boost exports, and oil and shipping costs started declining.
天气影响小麦,生产短缺,价格上涨。乙醇制品需要不断增长,玉米价格上涨。稻米价格上涨是因为政府的恐慌。印度限制了出口,结果国际粮价飙升。在菲律宾,政府储粮很少,但个人储粮很多,将要迎来第二次丰收。虽然如此,还是以高于市场的价格购进大量越南大米,结果越南米价提高。泰国受到了OPEC的影响,正在考虑限制出口,而且还要与越南、柬埔寨和缅甸一起,建立出口大米的卡特尔公司。还有,小出口国限制出口,而进口国以及农户正在囤米。2008年,越南、日本和泰国宣称,要增加出口。当时,石油和运输成本开始下降。在这种情况下,米价到08年下半年才开始下降。
9. This episode was an object lesson in the perils of interference. But governments continue to intervene across the market. They offer trade restrictions, price support and hefty subsidies on power, fertiliser and water, mainly to keep domestic prices stable, assure supplies in times of crisis and protect domestic growers.
干预产生了风险。虽然上述插曲就是教训,但政府还要继续干预。他们限制贸易,支持米价,对化肥、水以及动力设备进行高额补贴,主要是想保护本国稻农,保持国内米价稳定,以备不时之需。
10. In one sense, this has worked. Across Asia, domestic rice prices are relatively stable. But the countries trying to reduce imports tend to have far higher prices than exporters (see chart). Japan, for instance, maintains its network of archaic, inefficient, heavily subsidised small rice farms. The average age of its rice farmers is 70. Japan imports rice grudgingly and taxes it heavily: tariffs on milled rice will remain at 778%, even after it joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement under which Japan agreed to lower tariffs on other agricultural imports (see article).
一方面,这样做是有用的。亚洲各国米价相对稳定。但是,有些国家尽力减少进口,但米价又想高于出口国(见图表)。比如日本,种植方式不仅陈旧低效,大量补贴小型米农,还要维持原样。日本米农的平均年龄是70岁。日本加入了跨太平洋伙伴关系区,并签署自由贸易协定,同意降低其它进口农产品的关税(见文章)。虽然如此,日本对勉强地进口来的大米课以重税:去皮大米的关税将会是778%。
11. The government plays an even more outsized role in Indonesia and the Philippines, by directly determining the volume of imports. The quota varies from year to year, depending on how good the local harvest is expected to be. Both countries also set a floor price for farmers and a ceiling price for consumers. Vietnam, an exporter, uses quotas to restrict the amount of rice leaving the country, and thus stabilise domestic prices. Such restrictions create a lucrative opening for smugglers.
印尼和菲律宾,政府的作用更大,直接决定进口量。根据每年预期的收成,进口量也会不同。同时,两国政府也规定了农户最低收购价,以及消费者最高购买价。出口国越南也是利用进口量来限制国内,结果价格稳定。此种限制为走私者敞开大门,让他们有利可图。
12. Governments not only dictate the volume of trade, they also buy rice directly. For more than a decade China’s government has been buying rice from local farmers at above-market rates to maintain its stockpile. The Indian government guarantees farmers a floor price in theory, but many do not receive it. The National Food Security Act, passed in 2013, is supposed to ensure that the poor can buy rice from the government at below-market rates from a network of around 60,000 fair-price shops. This byzantine, inefficient system—the central government buys rice and sends it to the states, who distribute it to shops—provides myriad opportunities for corruption. By some estimates more than half the grain is siphoned off, and tons of rice intended for the poor rot in massive government stockpiles.
政府不仅要决定贸易量,还要直接购买。十几年前,中国政府就已经以高于市场利率的方式,从农户手里购买粮食,保持储量。印度政府保证了农户的最低价,但只是说说,并未实行。2013年通过了国家粮食安全行动法案,期望保证穷人能以低于市场利率的价格,从广大的6万家平价商店买到大米。中央政府购买大米,再分配到各个省,省里分到各个粮库。这种方法低效,并由“暗箱”操作,产生了大量腐败的机会。据估计,一半多的粮食被侵吞,要配送的稻米成吨地腐烂在政府巨大的仓库里。
13. Indonesia also guarantees floor and ceiling prices, and maintains a similar rice-distribution programme, spending around $1.7 billion each year to distribute subsidised rice to roughly 16m families. This scheme has also been dogged by allegations of corruption: some of the rice was rotten and weevil-infested by the time it reached poor families, and some of the families sold rice back to traders for several times the subsidised price. This year an OECD study found that as a result of Indonesia’s various policy interventions rice there cost around 60% more than on the world market.
印尼也保证了粮食购买的最高价和高低价,也有类似的粮食供给系统。每年都会花费约17亿美元,把受到补贴的粮食分配给大约1600万户家庭。这项措施的背后腐败产生:有些大米到达住户时,已经腐烂长虫;还有些家庭把这些大米以高出补贴价数倍的价格买出给贸易商。今年,经合组织的一项研究发现,由于印尼各种政策的干预,印尼大米在世界市场上约60%以上。
14. In 2012 Thailand cooked up a disastrous plan to buy rice from farmers at above-market prices, hoard it to drive up global prices (at the time Thailand was the world’s biggest exporter) and then sell it when prices rose. The ruse failed when growing Indian rice exports picked up the slack; it ended up costing the Thai government around $16 billion, leaving it sitting on 13m tonnes of quickly rotting rice and getting Yingluck Shinawatra, the prime minister of the day, impeached. Many farmers still have not been paid.
2012年,泰国构想出一个灾难性的计划,以高于市场的价格,从农户手中购买大米,囤积起来,以此抬高国际大米价格(当时泰国还是世界上最大的出口国),等价格升高后再出售出去。这项计划失败了,因为印度大米出口不断增长,收拾了这个烂摊子。结果,泰国花了160亿美元,坐拥的1300万吨大米很快腐烂。总理英拉也遭到弹劾。现在有很多农户仍未赔偿。
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15. As a result of interventions like these, billions of people pay above-market rates for rice. High rice prices lower purchasing power and increase poverty in rice-importing countries. They also hinder child development by reducing the amount of more nutritious foods households can afford. Studies in Bangladesh and Indonesia have found that higher prices are associated with higher rates of malnutrition.
由于类似的干预行为,上亿人以高于市场利率的价格购买大米。高昂的米价降低了购买力,增加了粮食进口国的贫困。同时,家庭能够买得的营养食品减少,阻碍了儿童发育。孟加拉国和印度尼西亚的研究已经发现,高价与高度营养不良有关。
16. Governments often justify keeping prices high on the grounds that it helps poor rice farmers. In fact, most benefits accrue to the richest farmers—those with the most surplus rice to sell. Farmers with holdings too small to grow enough rice to feed their families suffer, as do landless farmhands, the urban poor and farmers of crops other than rice. All told, these groups number in the hundreds of millions.
政府通常会证明粮价高是合理的,理由是贫穷的米农会得到帮助。其实,受益最多的还是那些最富有的农户,他们可出售的节余大米最多。有些农户生产资料太少,打的粮食还不够自己吃,无地的农场工人、城市贫民以及不种水稻的农户也是如此。总之,这类群体的数量达到了数亿。
17. But farmhands and the urban poor lack political clout, and subsidies, once in place, can be hard to take away. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, for one, relies on the support of all those doddering rice farmers. Thailand’s junta came into office promising to end rice subsidies. Yet even as the generals moved to try Ms Yingluck for the losses incurred by her rice-purchase scheme, they announced their own billion-dollar handout to rice farmers. For Asian policymakers, it seems, intervening in the market for rice has become as reflexive as eating the stuff.
农场工人和城市贫民缺乏政治影响力,补贴实施后很难取消。比如,日本执政党自由民主党全靠那些老态龙钟的米农的支持。泰国军政府执政后承诺,要废除农业补贴。但是,当泰国的将军们开始审理英拉购米计划损失案时,他们却照本宣科,将数十亿美元分给米农。如此看来,对亚洲的决策者来说,干预水稻市场跟吃饭一样具有反射性。