New rice crisis cannot be ruled out

MANILA – A REPEAT of the 2008 rice crisis that led to riots in the developing world cannot be ruled out as the cost of other agricultural goods surge, a research group has warned.

The International Rice Research Institute said the global rice market was delicately balanced as the grain had managed to avoid huge price rises thanks to stable weather in rice growing regions.

The cost of wheat surged 121 per cent over the eight months to February, maize jumped 92 per cent and sugar 80 percent higher due to bad weather and rising global demand for commodities. However, at the same time rice prices rose just 17 per cent due to good harvests in 2010.

But the IRRI, in its quarterly Rice Today magazine, said the possibility of panic-buying of the staple similar to that three years ago could send prices soaring again. Rice prices nearly tripled from US$362 (S$448) a tonne in December 2007 to almost US$1,000 in April 2008 as stocks fell to 30-year lows amid surging global demand, IRRI data show.

‘The rice sector has been fortunate to have escaped the wrath of the weather,’ the magazine report said. ‘However, similar panic actions by other rice-consuming countries may tilt the market to an override mode and possibly cause a repeat of 2008.’