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The loss of rice production in Myanmar is worsening the crisis in world rice markets, where prices have trebled this year. Meanwhile, Japan has 1.5 million tons of surplus rice, most of it imported from the U.S. Releasing this rice to global markets would prick a speculative bubble and bring rice prices down fast, while also encouraging China and Thailand to release their surplus stocks.
But first Washington must lift its objections and Japan must decide to re-export rice that it imported from the U.S., Thailand, and Vietnam. Failure to act would mean that high-quality U.S. rice would be fed to Japanese pigs and chickens while millions of poor people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
Tom Slayton, a former editor of The Rice Trader, and Peter Timmer, CGD non-resident fellow and visiting professor at Stanford University, explain how prompt action could prevent the rice price crisis from becoming a hunger crisis.
Not to be melodramatic, but the official system for counting foreign aid is in crisis. The longstanding mathematical rule determining whether a loan’s interest rate is low enough to qualify it as aid has gone out of sync with the times. The rule’s benchmark interest rate of 10% per year was reasonable when adopted in 1972, but not now. Today, wealthy governments can borrow below 3%, lend a couple percent higher, come in well under the 10% bar, and count the potentially profitable lending as aid.
This post is joint with Tom Slayton, a rice trade expert and former editor of The Rice Trader
Today in Tokyo, Japan's Vice Minister for Agriculture, Toshirou Shirasu, told reporters that Japan plans to export 200,000 tons of rice to the Philippines "as fast as possible." This confirmed sale comes on top of 50,000 tons of Japanese rice previously under discussion. Even the anticipation of these sales had done much to take the speculative steam out of over-heated global rice markets, as we reported towards the end of last week (see "Rice Prices Fall After Congressional Hearings But Crisis Not Over Yet"), so with some sales now officially confirmed we can hope to see further easing of speculative pressures.