Sunday, February 26, 2012


Now here’s a conundrum:
  1. Suppose you and I agree that we will have some kind of mutually profitable transaction. I supply something you need, and you pay me for that product, at an agreed upon price.
  2. We continue this agreement, with your money and my product exchanging hands.
  3. Then, suppose, I use a part of the money that you pay to me for my product, to bomb the living daylights out of you.
  4. This coming to pass, should our original agreement still hold? 
(Note that the initial agreement between us was purely economic in nature, and made no mention of bombs between us, or anybody else.)

The Telegraph, Calcutta, reports today that US Congress representatives from the largest rice-growing states in the USA are “on the warpath, asking Iraq to resume buying long-grain rice from their country, instead of from India.” Texas Congressman Ted Poe has said that “‘We would think they would consider the US in trade since we spent billions of dollars not only to liberate their country, but to rebuild their infrastructure.’ ”

There has been a 77% drop in sales of rice from the US to Iraq over 2010-2011, though “‘not long ago, Iraq represented the largest market for US rice.’ ” Baghdad has apparently not bought rice from the US since late 2010. “Iraq’s trade ministry has said that much of the shift is a function of the Iraqi public preferring India’s basmati rice, which the US doesn't produce.”

Basmati rice is originally from India, where there are references to it in ancient textual sources and folklore traditions. In 1997, the US Patents and Trademark Office gave RiceTec (a TNC) patent rights on basmati rice. RiceTec’s cross-bred strain, called basmati 687, was awarded a patent for “Basmati Rice Lines and Grains”, marking the possibility that company could stop others from growing basmati in the future. The US has grown, sold and exported a massive amount of RiceTec basmati since the late 1990s. This sort of behavior is called biopiracy.

Living in India, I’m not so thrilled at Indian basmati being exported to Iraq, or anywhere else, simply because this has implications on availability and price within the country. But in this case, they’re welcome to my rice, even if it inconveniences me. Because if I was Iraqi, I’d probably rather give my money to the lost city of Atlantis than to the United States, in the cases where that would be possible.

The article also says that the Indian rice works out cheaper than its US cousin, because “Iraq has stringent requirements on the grain (…) increasing risk to shippers, causing them to hedge uncertainty with price premiums.”

Therefore, upto a quite short while ago, Iraq was buying more expensive, biopirated grains from the US, and getting bombed by them. And now, US business interests are “upset” because they have stopped.

I’m getting visions of this overgrown baby in diapers throwing a world-scale tantrum.


olidhar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
olidhar said...

EXACTLY the right pic, exactly!

Sujoy said...

The US uses war ONLY to keep markets functioning. It does not wage war on countries that it has no trade relationship with...

Beq said...

hehehehehe. Add to that the fact that our PM is saying that anti-btBrinjal protests are being funded by American NGOs while he bats for Monsanto, a very American country. Such delicious conundrums we face in the world today :)

Beq said...

Whoops...'a very American COMPANY' I meant to say :)

Devalina said...

@Oli: thank you. I spent quite a bit of time looking for an adequate picture :)

@Sujoy: Really? current or future? Overt or covert? Cuba? Vietnam?

@Beq: Yes and apparently Narendra Modi is opposing Bt Brinjal, have you heard? He didn't oppose Bt Cotton. Such things always make me want to know the whole story...