View Full Version : Soaring Rice Prices A Global Danger, Expert Warns

05-14-2008, 08:52 AM
Soaring rice prices a global danger, expert warns


Reuters, Tuesday May 13 2008 (Figures in U.S. dollars)
By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, May 13 (Reuters) - The current spike in world rice prices could be devastating, even if it only lasts for a few months, and will leave African nations vulnerable to unrest, a top expert said on Tuesday.

Rice prices have tripled over the past year as stocks dwindle and major exporters curb shipments to keep domestic prices under control.

The price of Thai 100 percent B grade white rice -- considered the world's benchmark -- was quoted at $920 a tonne on Monday, just under its recent peak of $1,000.

"The impact of a spike in rice prices -- even let's say it only lasted a few months -- is something that could be devastating," said Robert Zeigler, director-general of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.

"Let's not underestimate the gravity of this situation," he told an Ottawa conference on food prices.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on Monday that, although world rice production was set to hit a record this year, increasing demand and restrictions on exports would keep prices high for the staple foodstuff.

"The prices that we see today I fear are going to be around for a while, maybe not $1,200 a tonne rice but much higher than $200 a tonne rice ... we haven't seen the impact yet of these high rice prices," said Zeigler.

Although food riots have already broken out in Haiti and other impoverished nations, worse unrest could follow.

"Africa imports 40 to 50 percent of its rice and they depend on Asian rice surpluses. What's going to happen when they're paying three to four times what they were accustomed to paying for their rice?" Ziegler told the conference.

Asked later to elaborate, he replied: "I think people will have less to eat and they'll probably be pretty unhappy. We have seen food riots already and if the governments are not able to source the rice, or they pass all those price increases through to the consumers, that's where you get riots."

Zeigler blamed the shortage of rice stocks in part on what he said was 15 years of declining investment in both agricultural research and infrastructure.

Despite this, he predicted that advances in science and technology meant the world would recover faster than it did from the last rice supply crisis in 1973 and 1974.

"But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that this thing will turn around in six months," he said.

"If India has a great monsoon and there are no (disease) outbreaks in Vietnam and China, no big typhoons run through the Philippines, no big story hits Bangladesh, we could look pretty good this time next year," he said.

Zeigler also said that the recent cyclone which ripped through Myanmar's river delta would help keep prices high. This year the country's rice harvest could fall short by 2 million tonnes, he predicted.

"There has been significant damage to the water management systems, the dikes and canals," he said. "Sea water intrusion has got in ... some of the areas -- at least for the near term -- are going to be suffering from salinity."

05-14-2008, 03:03 PM
Well, based on my calculations... tabulated from recent headlines, it seems there should be about 1,015,000 less rice eating folks kicking around in about another week. Just sayin.