Higher Stockpiles, Futures May Steady Rice Prices, Report Says

Asian countries should increase rice reserves to help stabilize prices and improve food security in the region which is home to about 65 percent of the world’s hungry, according to a report today.

The development of a futures market in Singapore may also stabilize costs and make pricing more transparent, said the International Rice Research Institute and the Asia Society today.

Wheat as much as doubled since early June and corn climbed to the highest level in two years after drought and rains ruined crops from Russia to Canada. Rice, the staple food for half the world, has advanced to the most expensive since May. A United Nations price-index of 55 foods is at its highest level since September 2008. That year, rice, wheat, corn, and soybeans soared to records, sparking riots from Haiti to Egypt.

“As Asia’s population continues to grow and to urbanize at unprecedented rates, food insecurity in the region could worsen unless action is taken now,” according to the report. Declining trends in agricultural research and rural investment may lead to long-term food shortages, it said.

Larger stockpiles would “cushion price shocks” and give policy makers more confidence in using the world market as a routine source of supply and demand, it said.

Rice production needs to grow by about 4 million metric tons a year because of population increases at current levels of per capita consumption, said the report. Almost two-thirds of the world’s 1.4 billion poor live in Asia and spend about half their income on food, it said.

To meet growing demand, developing countries need to raise total agriculture investments by 47 percent to $209 billion per year, said the institute and the society, citing figures from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The New York-based Asia Society is a non-profit educational organization, according to its website.

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