Rice crisis

Here's yet another sign of Peak Food: A looming rice crisis on the other side of the world.

Rice prices jumped 30 per cent to an all-time high on Thursday,
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.

On Friday the Indian government imposed further restrictions on the
exports of rice to combat rising local inflation, with traders warning
that the new regime would de facto stop all India’s non-basmati rice

While prices of wheat, corn and other agricultural commodities have
surged since late 2006, the increase in rice prices only started in

Even before the Financial Times sounded that dire note this morning, the Christian Science Monitor saw signs of trouble — in the form of theivery.

In Asia, where rice is on every plate, prices are shooting up almost daily. Premium Thai fragrant rice now costs $900 per
ton, a nearly 30 percent rise from a month ago.

Exporters say the price could eclipse $1,000 per ton by June. Similarly, prices of white rice have climbed about 50 percent
since January to $600 per ton and are projected to jump another 40 percent to $800 per ton in April.

The skyrocketing prices have prompted millers to default on rice supply contracts and bandits to steal rice as they aim to
hoard the crop, and sell it later, as prices continue to rise.

farmers are afraid as their fields have been robbed in the nighttime,”
says Sarayouth Phumithon, an official at the Thai government’s Bureau
of Rice Strategy and Supply. “This is just the beginning. The problem
will get worse if the price keeps increasing.”

The reported thefts in five rice-growing
provinces in central Thailand are the first signs of criminal activity
in this region stemming from the sharpest global spike in commodity
prices since the oil crisis in the mid-1970s. Across the world, higher
food prices are triggering thefts and violence – both by people who
can’t afford to eat and those who want to make an easy buck.

Three men delivering food for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Sudan were reported killed Tuesday, the latest in a surge
of attacks that have delayed the arrival of vital supplies to some 2 million people in the region.

far this year, the UN agency says 56 trucks have been hijacked in
Sudan; 36 trucks remain missing, and 24 drivers are unaccounted for.
The WFP says that banditry has reduced by half the amount of food
normally transported to the western region of Darfur at this time of

It just reinforces an ongoing theme we follow here at the DR blog, and that the Agora Financial editors follow in their publications: the growing scarcity of just about everything — oil, food, metals, you name it. 

It's also the theme of this year's Agora Financial Investment Symposium.   We're calling this year's model View from the Peak: Investing in a Time of Risk and Scarcity.  As usual, this event will be held in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia in late July.  Slots are filling up fast, much faster than a year ago.  So check out the details right here.

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