News / Economy

    Asia Grain 'Mountains' Swell as Governments Fret Over Food Security

    An employee sweeps wheat grain at the Aktyk farm outside Astana, Kazakhstan, September 10, 2013.
    An employee sweeps wheat grain at the Aktyk farm outside Astana, Kazakhstan, September 10, 2013.
    Reuters
    Towering grain mountains in Asia, already large enough to feed China for eight months, are set to grow even bigger as governments persist in shoring up their safety buffers against hard times.
     
    Haunted by a 2008 food crisis that sparked unrest and panic buying, states will keep piling grain into reserves despite the strain on their finances and storage problems, buoying prices that have been hit by expectations of bumper harvests.
     
    “The most populated countries, especially in Asia, will be very reluctant to see their inventories go down,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.
     
    “Lessons learnt during the [19]90s and 2007-08 have convinced policymakers that the international market is important but it cannot be relied on 100 percent for food security.”
     
    With hoarding the name of the game, Asia's top grain-buying states have accumulated a whopping 100 million tons of rice and 90 million tons of wheat since a combination of high energy prices, bad weather and growing demand for biofuels sent grain prices soaring in 2008.
     
    India halted rice exports at that time, when global prices for the staple grain <RI-THWHB-P1> jumped to an all-time high of $1,050 a ton, triggering similar restrictions from other suppliers and panic-buying in importers such as the Philippines.
     
    “Higher grain stocks reflect the government's priority of having a more-than-sufficient buffer to avoid any shortage and to run its welfare food programs,” said N. R. Bhanumurthy, a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in New Delhi.  “The entire stock will evaporate if one single crop fails.”
     
    India was forced to start exporting grains in 2011 after scenes of wheat and rice rotting in open fields grabbed international headlines. But half-hearted attempts to sell grains have not had much impact on stockpiles.
     
    India's rice stocks at government warehouses stood at 21 million tons on Sept. 1, against an official target of 9.8 million tons, thanks to four consecutive years of good monsoon rains. It had 38 million tons of wheat against a target of 17.1 million tons.
     
    All eyes on exporters
     
    Asian nations with large populations to feed will not reduce their stockpiles unless they see inventories rising in top exporting countries such as the United States, Australia and Russia.
     
    “I don't think people are comfortable with grain supplies just yet,” said one Melbourne-based analyst. “As of now, stockpiles have merely shifted from producers to buyers.”
     
    World supplies have been tight in the last six years, as the global grain market lurched from one crop crisis to another, including a devastating drought in the United States, Brazil and Argentina in 2012.
     
    In contrast to Asia's giant reserves, the United States - the world's main corn exporter - ended the marketing year in August with its lowest stocks in 16 years.
     
    Australia, the number two wheat exporter, was left with 3.7 million tons of wheat at the end of last month, just half of year ago closing stocks of more than seven million tons.
     
    And the grain storage situation in Asia is only going to worsen with near-perfect weather likely to boost stocks.
     
    India, which already has some 12 million tons of rice and wheat stored in the open, covered with just tarpaulin sheets, will see up to 30 million tons of rice added to its stocks by the end of the year.
     
    India's rice production is forecast to reach close to last year's all-time high, while good monsoon rains have left ample moisture for wheat to thrive in the months ahead.
     
    In Thailand, the government is extending its controversial rice intervention scheme for a third year. The scheme supports farmers by paying them above market rates, making supplies uncompetitive and costing the country its title as the world's biggest rice exporter.
     
    The populist move will add about 10 million tons by year-end to existing stocks estimated at 16 million currently, or roughly half of annual global trade. With warehouses bursting at the seams, Thai officials are considering renting air force airport hangars for storage.
     
    Although wheat stocks in China have fallen in the last few years, the country is seen emerging as the world's number one importer as it rebuilds depleted reserves and meets a shortfall in domestic supplies.
     
    China is expected to buy around 9.5 to 10 million tons of wheat in the year to June 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and traders.
     
    In addition to piling up reserves, the Philippines is striving for self sufficiency in rice supply by the end of 2013.
     
    “Our target is to increase our inventory to ensure food security and stable prices,” said Orlan Calayag, an administrator at the National Food Authority.  “We are prepared to spend more to improve and expand our storage facilities.”

    You May Like

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8883
    JPY
    USD
    114.96
    GBP
    USD
    0.6869
    CAD
    USD
    1.3858
    INR
    USD
    67.855

    Rates may not be current.