Tag Archives: rice

Volatile Rice Prices

There is a new Rice Outlook report from the Economic Research Service of the USDA.  I was surprised to see a forecast record harvest for the coming year, given the crazy price movements in rice this year and the dire predictions that were the rule earlier this summer.  At Costco in California, they actually rationed the 25 and 50 lb bags for a while, fearing a run on fancy rice (like Jasmine and Basmati).  I watched an irate shopper who was trying to buy 12 10 lb bags of rice get told that she couldn’t do it.  She nearly lost it. 

I plotted a couple of price quote series (for Thailand Grade B and Thailand Super A1 100% Broken).

Rice Trading Price, 2005-2008

The plot shows an astounding price increase over the beginning of 2008, nearly tripling the November 2007 price before plummeting again at the end of last month. 

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this.  As I mentioned in a previous post, nearly three billion of the world’s people rely on rice as a staple crop and most of these people are poor.  When the price of rice triples, people go hungry.  Roz Naylor has a nice video available on the Woods Institute for the Environment website explaining the food crisis of this spring and how it relates the the expansion of biofuels.

High Rice Prices Affect Nearly Three Billion

Nearly half the world’s population relies on rice as its primary food staple.  In the last three months, the trading price of rice on international markets has nearly doubled.  This is bad news for poor people in Asia and, especially, parts of urban West Africa. One contributor to this dramatic increase in price is the reduced growth in production in places like Vietnam because of viral infections such as grassy stunt virus and tungro and other crop infestations such as brown planthopper.  So far, the infestations have not spilled over into China, the worlds largest rice producer, but one worries about the proximity and borders that are notoriously permeable to the smuggling of agricultural products