Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thai rice could cost as much as $1,000 a tonne

Rice, the world’s most abundant food, has gained 90% in the past year on the Chicago Board of Trade
By Rattaphol Onsanit/ Bloomberg
Bangkok: Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, may sell its top-grade grain at a record $1,000 (Rs40,300) a tonne by the end of June as local exporters expect Iran and Nigeria to buy the commodity with revenue from rising oil prices.
“Some big buyers have been waiting for the prices to ease,” Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of Thailand’s Rice Exporters Association, said in a telephone interview from Vancouver, Canada.
“But that didn’t happen. So they will have to buy at higher prices.”
Rice, the world’s most abundant food, has gained 90% in the past year on the Chicago Board of Trade. Still, soaring prices raised concerns over food security in emerging markets, and Robert Zeigler, director general of Manila-based International Rice Research Institute, said last week that higher costs may spark“civil unrest”.
India, the world’s second biggest rice producer, increased the minimum price for overseas shipments of the grain and restricted export outlets to boost local supplies and curb inflation, the government said on 7 March.
Record oil prices have enabled crude exporters including Iran and Nigeria to afford costlier rice amid a tight global supply of the grain, Chookiat said.
Thailand’s top-grade fragrance rice could reach the record in the next three months from about $900 a tonne now, he said.
Vietnam and India are curbing exports to secure supplies at home.
The Philippines plans to buy rice from a regional emergency stockpile, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said on 12 March. Indonesia said on Monday it was considering measures to curb exports.
Iran imported 900,000 tonnes of the grain last year, while Nigeria imported 1.7 million tonnes (mt).
The Philippines, the world’s biggest importer, may purchase 2.1mt overseas this year, up from 1.9mt in 2007, as rising wheat prices make bread and pasta less affordable, Yap said on 11 March.
Thailand may sell white and parboiled rice at around $800 a tonne by the end of June, compared with as much as $650 now, Chookiat said.
“As long as oil prices are high, and more agricultural areas are used for biofuel crops, rice couldn’t go much lower,” Chookiat said, adding that prices of the commodity may stay above $500 a tonne.

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