African Consumers Hit As Asia Gobbles Up Rice Supplies

SINGAPORE/MUMBAI/NAIROBI: Tightening world provides of fundamental foodstuffs and disruptions to delivery brought on by the coronavirus pandemic are driving up the price of rice, crucial staple meals for billions of individuals worldwide.

Rising meals costs are a worrying pattern in nations that depend upon imports, whereas the price of rice is politically delicate in lots of components of Asia and Africa. A spike within the worth of the grain led to unrest in a number of nations in the course of the world meals disaster of 2008.

Benchmark rice costs jumped 20%-45% in key Asian producers final yr, whereas demand for lower-quality rice in its place animal feed and hovering delivery prices are elevating issues that poorer nations that depend on imports could face shortfalls in provides.

“There are not any speedy provide points in Africa, but when exports from Asia get curbed … it might result in worries between June and October which is historically a lean (manufacturing) interval for northern and western Africa,” mentioned FAO rice economist Shirley Mustafa in Rome.

“Logistical bottlenecks might result in meals provides getting squeezed and meals inflation, doubtlessly aggravating the financial hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sub-Saharan Africa is a serious rice purchaser, relying on imports for 40% of regional consumption, whereas in lots of components of South and Southeast Asia – by far the highest rice producer and exporter – rice is served at most meals.

(GRAPHIC: Key world rice costs march increased on manufacturing worries, elevated meals & feed demand –


The value rises come as measures to gradual the coronavirus pandemic distorted world meals provide traces in 2020, including to issues about meals safety.

On the identical time robust demand from China despatched world cereal costs to their highest in 6 years, in accordance with the United Nations Meals & Agriculture Group (FAO).

China’s grain consumption was so robust in 2020 that it not solely depleted the county’s once-mammoth stockpiles, but in addition boosted crop imports to report ranges and helped run up costs of corn, sorghum and barley – largely used to feed animals.

(GRAPHIC: UN FAO world cereals worth index –

A 25% soar within the worth of corn, a key feed-grain ingredient, has spilled over into food-grade rice, as some animal feeders change to low-cost rice merchandise that will also be fed to animals, corresponding to 100% damaged rice, a by-product of rice milling.

The price of this number of rice has climbed to $280 a tonne, free on board, at a few of Indian ports, from $260 in December and is prone to rise additional, in accordance with native suppliers.

“Historically, African nations purchase 100% damaged rice since it’s cheaper,” mentioned Himanshu Agarwal, government director at Satyam Balajee, India’s largest rice exporter.

“However currently Asian nations corresponding to Vietnam and China have began shopping for 100% damaged rice and are paying a premium over costs paid by African patrons.”

China, the world’s prime rice producer, imported the grain from India for the primary time in at the least three many years final month.

“China is shopping for 100% damaged rice for noodles in addition to for feed,” mentioned a Mumbai-based vendor with a world buying and selling agency.

The worldwide rice market was additionally clipped by drought in Southeast Asia which prompted shipments from No.2 and No. 3 rice exporters Thailand and Vietnam to drop greater than 1 / 4 in January by means of November 2020 in comparison with the identical slot in 2019.

Costs of benchmark 5% damaged rice from Thailand and Vietnam are up 19% and 45% respectively from a yr in the past, whereas home paddy costs in mainland China are up round 25%, in accordance with Refinitiv Eikon.

(GRAPHIC: Thailand rice exports to prime locations –


Some high-end rice provides had been additionally hit by a world scarcity of delivery containers, often used to hold bagged rice and different meals.

Containers are taking longer to unload in lots of nations attributable to coronavirus restrictions, but stay in excessive demand attributable to booming e-commerce and for shipments of non-public protecting gear.

This has led to a surge in the price of delivery items by way of container, and prolonged delays.

“From Pakistan for instance, we used to pay $850 or $900 per container. Now, we’re $1,650 to $2,100 per container,” mentioned Mital Shah, managing director of Kenya-based Sunrice, considered one of East Africa’s largest rice importers.

Kenya consumes roughly 700,000 tonnes of rice yearly, of which round 600,000 tonnes are imported, in accordance with america Division of Agriculture.

The freight price for delivery a tonne of rice from India to Africa has tripled to $150 from $50 in November.

“It’s loads to ask for a commodity which prices lower than $300 a tonne,” mentioned one rice dealer, referring to Indian damaged rice.

African importers are banding collectively to purchase bulk cargoes, merchants and analysts mentioned, however mixed with the decrease shipments from Southeast Asia, the container crunch has lifted costs and pinched rice provides in key African markets.

“In one other month or two, we’ll see some shortfalls of rice right here,” mentioned Sunrice’s Shah in Kenya. “We could also be behind by 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes.”

(GRAPHIC: 2-year chart of Vietnam 5% damaged rice export costs in choose currencies –

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