First Corn, Then Chicken, Then Wheat, And Now Rice… Beef, Eggs And Milk Next…Have You Looked For Powdered Milk Lately?
Jump in rice price fuels fears of unrest
Rice prices jumped 30 per cent to an all-time high on Thursday, raising fears of fresh outbreaks of social unrest across Asia where the grain is a staple food for more than 2.5bn people.
The increase came after Egypt, a leading exporter, imposed a formal ban on selling rice abroad to keep local prices down, and the Philippines announced plans for a major purchase of the grain in the international market to boost supplies. Global rice stocks are at their lowest since 1976.
While prices of wheat, corn and other agricultural commodities have surged since late 2006, the increase in rice prices only started in January.
The Egyptian export ban formalises a previously poorly enforced curb and follows similar restrictions imposed by Vietnam and India, the world’s second- and third-largest exporters. Cambodia, a small seller, also on Thursday announced an export ban.
These foreign sales restrictions have removed about a third of the rice traded in the international market.
“I have no idea how importing countries will get rice,” said Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association. He forecast that prices would rise further.
The Philippines, the world’s largest buyer of the grain, said on Thursday it wanted to purchase 500,000 tonnes after it failed to buy a similar amount earlier this month. It is struggling to import 1.8m-2.1m tonnes to cover a production shortfall and on Thursday confirmed it would tap emergency stocks maintained by Vietnam and Thailand.
Rice is also a staple in Africa, particularly for small countries such as Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Senegal that have already suffered social unrest because of high food prices.
Thai rice, a global benchmark, was quoted on Thursday at $760 a tonne, up about 30 per cent from the previous daily quote of about $580 a tonne, according to Reuters data. Some traders, however, said the daily jump was not as steep, adding that Thai rice had already traded at about $700 a tonne this week.
Rice prices have doubled since January, when the grain traded at about $380 a tonne, boosted by strong Asian, Middle Eastern and African demand.