For 50 years, Arnong Mungoei has been cultivating rice in the Khon Kaen province of Thailand.
Living in a rural area approximately 500 kilometers northeast of Bangkok did not bring her wealth, but it did offer a reliable source of income.
However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the rice markets have been greatly affected by geopolitical tensions and weather conditions, leading to a significant increase in global rice prices by 2023.
However, Arnong stated that she earned a lower income compared to previous years.
Arnong, 68, explained that the rice mills he sells to do not raise their prices. He expressed frustration, stating that he has no choice but to sell his rice at the price they offer, as he has already paid for transportation costs. He cannot reword.
According to the annual report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in 2023, there was a 20% to 30% decrease in the prices of wheat and grains like oats and corn due to the replenishment of stocks.
However, the FAO report states that rice prices remained elevated throughout the year as a result of a continuous La Niña in March, followed by an unusual El Niño event in June and India implementing limitations on non-basmati rice in July due to concerns of a potential decrease in production after a delayed monsoon.
India’s export control removed 9 million metric tons of grain from the international market and ignited global prices. India is responsible for 40% of global rice supplies after overtaking Thailand as the world’s largest rice exporter in 2011.
India’s rice is heavily relied upon by countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia, as well as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Senegal in West Africa.
According to Joseph Glauber, a senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, rice is difficult to obtain due to the limited number of suppliers available. Glauber also noted in November, in an interview with Bloomberg, that India’s export-control policy creates a significant gap in the market.
The World Bank forecasted that rice costs will stay elevated until 2024, as long as India continues to limit its exports. This forecast takes into account a moderate-to-strong El Niño.
According to the bank’s report on commodities released on October 30th, rice prices have reached their peak during the third quarter of 2023, surpassing the levels seen during the 2007-2008 food crises. This is attributed to the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel, as well as the effects of El Niño.
Although India’s regulations may be advantageous for its own citizens, they could potentially harm those in other parts of Asia and Africa who rely on a reliable source of rice. This could lead to an increase in food insecurity due to the sustained high prices.
The price of rice in Nigeria rose by 61% between September and November. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the country is expected to import 2.1 million metric tons of rice in 2024.
In September, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. implemented a price limit in the Philippines due to a 14-year peak in rice costs. Marcos attributed the high prices to “smugglers, hoarders and price manipulators” and lifted the limit on October 13 when concerns about limited supply improved.
According to Alfie Pulumbarit, who serves as the national coordinator for MASIPAG, an organization in the Philippines that collaborates with farmers, scientists, and NGOs to empower farmers, the increasing cost of food has had a significant impact on the citizens of the country, resulting in many families experiencing hunger.
According to official sources, Pulumbarit reported that the minimum daily living cost in the Philippines is approximately 79 pesos or $1.50. However, the current price of rice is $1.10 per kilogram.
He stated that if Indian regulations persist and farmers continue to abandon rice production in the Philippines, it could result in a massive food shortage.
The upcoming year’s rice production and price will be heavily influenced by climate.
According to the U.S. National Weather Service, El Niño is expected to impact the Northern Hemisphere, which includes significant rice-producing countries such as China, India, and Southeast Asian nations, during the months of April to June. This coincides with the time frame for rice planting in Asia.
A recent study by the Asian Bank Development suggests that the private sector should take on a larger role in rice trading in order to mitigate domestic production losses in importing nations. Additionally, it urges policymakers to prioritize sustainable methods of rice production.
According to the analysis, rice cultivation contributes to 12% of methane emissions and 1.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. In Asia, more than half of freshwater resources are used for rice irrigation.
After the conclusion of the COP 28 meeting in Dubai, the FAO recommended that stakeholders explore environmentally-friendly farming methods. These include using fertilizers that decrease methane emissions and cultivating plants that produce rhizobacteria, potentially increasing oxygen levels in the soil.
This report was contributed by Smanachan Buddhajak.