I think I’ll start eating more quinoa.
The Financial Times reports that “fears of unrest rise across Asia as rice price surges 30% in a day.” In a BBC interview, the director of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI–don’t tell me you didn’t know one existed) bluntly states why this could be a major problem.
“Rice is the staple food for about half the world’s population, and over half the world’s poor.”
As the FT reports, many events has transpired to cause such a dramatic, sudden rise in the price of this extremely important food staple and the potential political effects.
Rice prices jumped 30 per cent to a record high yesterday, 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 rice prices increase started in January.
The Egyptian export ban formalises a previous 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 announced an export ban.
These foreign sales restrictions have removed about a third of the rice traded in the international market.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said: “I have no idea how importing countries will get rice.” He forecast prices would rise further.
Here is the BBC interview with the head of the IRRI: