Bangkok: Saying that “high and volatile food prices will be with us for years to come”, World Bank president Robert Zoellick urged wealthy nations to cut agricultural subsidies and open markets for food imports.
In a comparison in what could be called a “rock, paper, scissors” portfolio, comprising benchmarks for gold, A4 paper and cold-reduced steel coil, on a relative basis, rice has trumped all, after about doubling the past year.
Climbing rice costs prompted a variety of policy responses last week. Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, said it has enough of the grain “for export to neighbouring countries”. State banks in the Philippines, the biggest rice importer, were told by the finance minister to earmark funds for grain purchases. Hong Kong’s government said there is “no need for the public to worry” because the city has a “sufficient supply”.
Rice, the staple food for about three billion people, has surged on increased imports by the Philippines, and as China, India and Vietnam cut exports to boost stockpiles.
Record food and fuel prices have stoked inflation, contributing to strikes in Argentina, riots in Ivory Coast and a crackdown on illicit exports in Pakistan. The World Bank estimates 33 countries face potential social unrest because of increasing food and energy prices.