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Roots of Asia's rice crisis

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At the epicenter of the storm is the Philippines, the world's largest importer of rice. The island nation annually imports between 10 to 15 percent of its rice. But because global rice supplies are so tight – causing India, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam to restrict exports – the Philippines is having a hard time fulfilling an import order of around one million tons.

The country is paying exorbitant prices for whatever rice it can get its hands on, driving up prices around the world to double last year's.

A shortfall of 10 percent is expected for 2008, causing fears that food riots could erupt here as they have in countries such as Haiti, Egypt, Mexico, Burkina Faso, and Senegal.

Those are just concerns so far in the Philippines, but the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – like the governments of Haiti and Malaysia, among others – has been shaken by the growing crisis and faced with public calls for her ouster.

At the center of the storm lies a simple question: Why can't the Philippines, and other countries in Asia, produce enough rice to feed themselves?

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