Floods in Pakistan that drowned part of the agricultural land and India’s decision to limit its rice exports could exacerbate tensions on the food security front in the most import-dependent African countries from Asia.
Already facing wheat and corn prices due to the war in Ukraine, the African continent may also face rice market prices due to the floods in Pakistan and India’s decision to limit its exports.
India banned exports of broken rice last week and imposed a 20% duty on exports of higher quality rice. With this measure, the world’s largest exporter is trying to lower prices at the local level after below-average monsoon rains.
Exports could therefore collapse by 25% in the coming months, according to the director of Satyam Balajee, the main exporter of Indian rice. “All cereals had increased, except rice. Now it joins this trend,” said Himanshu Agarwal, interviewed by Reuters.
At the same time, Thailand and Vietnam agreed to raise prices to better compensate their farmers. “There will be a significant strain on food security in many countries,” said Phin Ziebell, food economist at the National Australia Bank.
Addiction to Asian rice
Especially since the situation in Pakistan, faced with the consequences of historic floods, could also weigh on world prices. “Pakistan is a large exporter of rice. However, a third of the country is under water and therefore there is a long-term risk of an increase in the price of rice on the international market,” notes on l’antenna de France 24, researcher Nicolas Bricas, holder of the UNESCO World Food Chair.
Finally, strong Chinese demand for broken rice to replace corn that has become too expensive to feed animals has tended to increase prices in recent months.
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Another bad news on the food security front in sub-Saharan Africa, which depends very largely on imports of small white grains from Asia. According to RFI, Africa could absorb 40% of the world rice trade this year, or 20 million tons, a record.
“The problem of this dependence on rice imports is chronic and will last,” explains Patricio Mendez del Villar, a researcher at CIRAD. “Local production is not able to follow the curve of needs that increases with population growth and urban growth. In Africa, rice is preferred by urban dwellers because it is a ready-to-use product on the contrary of traditional cereals such as millet and sorghum that require preparation”. .
A rise in prices that must be “contained”
If food security in sub-Saharan Africa is not based only on rice, it remains the second most consumed cereal after corn. An increase in prices would be a new blow for the populations already weakened by the increase in the price of agricultural food.
The situation is particularly critical in the Horn of Africa, which is suffering from a historic drought. From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya via Somalia, more than 22 million people are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.
However, despite these concerns, rice prices are still not rising and a price increase should be “contained” and short-lived, according to Patricio Mendez del Villar.
“The main harvest in the main producing and exporting countries (India, Thailand and Vietnam) will begin in a few weeks. All this rice will add to the stocks that will be at their maximum, which will push these countries to sell the old harvest to Fà the room. This would reduce the pressure on the market. We would be in March or April, it would be much more problematic”, analyzes the specialist in the rice sector.
As for Pakistan, it exports only 4 million tons of rice per year against 21 million tons for India, “the market should therefore be able to withstand the shock even if Pakistan limits its exports”.