Saturday, May 24, 2008

For Shahrir: Rice prices to keep rising

UN analysts paint grim picture
Aretha Welch
Friday, May 23rd 2008

Visit any supermarket and you will notice that a pound of rice, which would have cost you less than $3 last year, now puts you out of pocket by about $9.

And United Nations food analysts say the prices are only going to get worse.

With rice prices now at an all-time high and the demand for the staple food far outweighing the level of production globally, economists say although countries may be able to access rice, the price of the item, which is a staple food for over three billion people (half the world), is set to rise even more as the year continues.

According to Bloomberg business news, if one is to take a cue from the fact that the price of rice has been climbing by an average of 12 per cent on the international commodities market every month for the last nine months, prices are set to soar even higher.

Supply fears and over pricing are being further pushed, as several Asian countries which are major rice producers are finding it difficult to feed their own populations, let alone grow enough rice for export purposes.

The world's biggest rice exporter, Thailand, has already banned exports, causing countries all over the world to spend top dollar to grab up some of the limited rice which is available for sale.
The recent natural disasters in the Eastern part world is not helping the price of rice either, as the Chinese who are both the world's largest rice growers and consumers are too busy recovering from the May 12 earthquake which shook their country to plant food. And Burma (Myanmar), which is the sixth largest rice producer in the world has had its crops destroyed by Cyclone Nargis which hit the country on May 3.

With the prices of wheat, soya, corn and other staple items also rising steadily the United Nations has now warned that over 1.5 billion people in the developing countries (such as those in the Caribbean) now run the risk of malnutrition.

Last month, Trinidad and Tobago's main rice supplier, Brazil banned all its rice exports and used the excess to bulk up their rice reserves at home. The ban is yet to be lifted.

However, managing director of JMH Enterprises, Charles James, distributors for the Par Excellence brand of rice and the main supplier for State-owned food company National Flour Mills, told the Express two weeks ago that this country had nothing to fear as he was part owner of a rice farm in Brazil and he would ensure the country's supply was steady.

One shopper at the Back to Basics Supermarket in Port of Spain said, however, "If more rice means more high prices, the rice might have to stay on the shelf from now on, every time they bring it, it going up, poor people can't cope."

When contacted by the Express on Tuesday, James refused to comment on whether or not the next wholesale supply of rice which the country received would be even more expensive than the last.

BERITADARIGUNUNG: SHAHRIR cannot play politicking too much. Reality is on the table!