Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Haunting Spectre

This is a frightening article. The implications are staggering. Price of rice continues record surge Philippines to crack down on hoarding Glenys Sim and Danielle Rossingh, Bloomberg News Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 Rice climbed to a record price for a fourth day as the Philippines, the biggest importer, announced plans to buy one million tons and some of the world's largest exporters cut sales to ensure they could feed their own people. Rice, the staple food for half the world, rose as much as 2.9 per cent to $21.60 per 100 pounds in Chicago, double the price from a year ago. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo announced two rice tenders yesterday and pledged to crack down on hoarding. Anyone found guilty of "stealing rice from the people" will be jailed, she said. "We're in for a tough time," Roland Jansen, chief executive officer of Pfaffikon, Switzerland-based Mother Earth Investments AG, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television from Zurich. Unless prices decline, "you will have huge problems of daily nutrition for half the planet." Mother Earth holds about four per cent of its $100 million funds in the grain. China, Egypt, Vietnam and India, accounting for more than one-third of global rice exports, curbed sales this year to protect domestic stockpiles. The World Bank in Washington says 33 nations from Mexico to Yemen may face "social unrest" after food and energy costs increased for six consecutive years. The Philippines, which imports about 15 per cent of its rice, is tightening controls over domestic sales and buying more overseas. The government's rice tenders are in April and May. "I am leading the charge" against any officials and businessmen who divert supplies or distort the price of the staple food, Ms. Arroyo said in a televised speech yesterday. Rice seeding in the United States is behind last year's pace because of flooding in growing regions, the Department of Agriculture says. Farmers in six states have planted 11 per cent of their crop versus 21 per cent a year earlier. "The need to avert social tensions from high food prices" has made "food sufficiency even more urgent," Abah Ofon, a soft-commodities analyst with Standard Chartered Plc, said in a report. Food importers may not be able to meet their needs because of the export limits, said Mr. Ofon, who is based in Dubai. Stockpiles are at their lowest since the 1980s and demand for the grain has gained 40 per cent in the past two decades, he said. © The Ottawa Citizen 2008

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