Researchers currently grow the seawater rice in the salty beaches of Qingdao, on the Yellow Sea, but 20 million hectares of Chinese wasteland - an area the size of Great Britain - has been identified for cultivation.
Even R. Pay, a senior analyst with Beijing-based consultancy firm China Policy, described the Dubai experiment as 'a significant breakthrough'. However, Ms Pay said there were significant barriers to making the new crop varieties widely available, mainly concerning regulation and funding the development of the plants in poor regions. 'Farmers in areas with highly saline soil or water supply, or that are impacted by rising sea levels, are likely to be among the poorest,' she told The Telegraph. 'Ensuring they have means to access this new variety will be a key step in realising its full potential.'
And observers say that poor, developing nations have massive incentives to back Beijing's new 'rice diplomacy'.
'The more China imports food from abroad, the more they have a strategic interest in ensuring their trade partners are food secure as well,' Ms Pay said.