Asia limits rice exports as prices and uncertainty rise
Top exporters are trading less of the staple food, hurting countries that rely on imports.
Asia, home to many of the world's top rice suppliers, accounts for 76 percent of the 30 million tons of the staple food exported each year. Prices are shooting up worldwide, in part because many of those countries have cut back on exports due to fears of shortage. The food-price crisis has underscored that, as a region, Asia is divided into "rice haves" – where domestic production is enough to feed the population – and "rice have-nots," which consistently rely on imports. Correspondent David Montero provides a snapshot of rice supplies around the region:
Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice, with 31 percent of the global market. In 2007, it exported 9.4 million tons of rice, out of a total 20 million tons produced. Unlike many Asian countries, it has not imposed any export restrictions, and this year it expects to export between 8.75 million and 9 million tons.
Yet prices of rice have doubled in the country since the beginning of the year, fueling fears of inflation and hoarding. But the government has stockpiled 2.1 million tons of rice, and no shortages are expected.
Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice in the world, with about 20 percent of the global market. It has said it will limit exports of rice to 3.5 million tons, down from 4.5 tons last year. The announcement contributed to global prices of rice doubling since January. Consumer prices in Vietnam, meanwhile, increased by 20 percent in March, a 12-year record.
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