News / Asia

Floods Leave Southeast Asia More Vulnerable to Food Price Shocks

Farmers in Indonesia sitting in front of processed rice that is ready to be sold. Economists say rice farmers living below the poverty line could be the most vulnerable to the impact of floods in Southeast Asia.
Farmers in Indonesia sitting in front of processed rice that is ready to be sold. Economists say rice farmers living below the poverty line could be the most vulnerable to the impact of floods in Southeast Asia.
Yong Nie

Massive flooding in Thailand and elsewhere has destroyed large parcels of rice farmland, opening the possibility of higher rice prices and leaving Southeast Asia at greater risk of a food price shock.

Heavy rains and massive flooding have destroyed crop land in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The United Nations says it is closely monitoring the potential for “serious food shortages” in several parts of Southeast Asia after floods affected agricultural activities and aid deliveries.

Rice farmers in Cambodia tend to their crops. Some 12% of the country's paddy fields are believed to have been destroyed due to the flooding in Southeast Asia.
Rice farmers in Cambodia tend to their crops. Some 12% of the country's paddy fields are believed to have been destroyed due to the flooding in Southeast Asia.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Global Information and Early Warning System, in a report released on Oct 21, says although no precise figures are available, continuous rain and flooding is estimated to have damaged at least 1.6 million hectares of standing crop in Thailand, representing more than 12 percent of total national cropped area. Another 12 percent of the total area under paddy in Cambodia is also believed to have been damaged.

About six percent of rice farmland is damaged in the Philippines, while in Vietnam it is reported that as much as 7.5 percent of the farmland is destroyed.

Yang Razali Kassim, a senior fellow and analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, says food security in Southeast Asia will certainly be affected by the floods in the region.

“The scale of the floods is unprecedented, and therefore, the threat on regional food security is also unprecedented. Rice supplies to the region is bound to be affected, adding to the pressure on food prices that have already seen rises in recent times due to shortages caused by erratic weather,” he said.

Before the floods, said to be Thailand’s worst in the last 50 years, the Bangkok government forecast rice production to stand at 25.8 million tons. But, the government predicts it may lose some six million tons of rough-rice from flooding. Analysts say Thailand, which accounts for 30 percent of global rice exports, has already lost three million tons of rice due to floods.

The price of rice is hovering at about $650 per ton currently, but rice traders are expecting the price to increase to $750 per ton, inching closer to its record-high level of $1,000 per ton in 2008.

However, many Asian countries control rice prices via government subsidies, making it unlikely that price hikes will hit most consumers in the near term.

Kamal Malhotra, U.N. Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, said rice farmers living below the poverty line are among the most vulnerable to the impact of the floods, as they are likely to have the least bargaining power, least resources to organize themselves collectively and are more likely to sit at the lowest end of the production chain.

“Whether price increase[s] will result in income increase[s] for the majority of those involved in rice production varies, subject to how the production chain is structured and the relative bargaining powers between farmers, distributors and retailers,” he said.

Malhotra said that while floods and other climatic conditions may cause price increases, the current prices of rice and other food commodities are also partly cost-pushed due to a fuel price hike and also the ongoing policy to replace food crops with cash crops.

“Without reversing some of these policies, food prices will be extremely volatile to short-term ‘shocks’ such as floods, subsequently affecting food security,” he said.

He added that shortages in food supplies are exacerbated by the possibility of panic-driven protectionism that may also push up prices.

In 2008, a global food price shock mainly driven by rising oil prices caused political and social unrest in several poor and developed countries. A World Bank report released on February 15 said continuously rising food prices have pushed another 44 million people into extreme poverty and exposed them more to hunger.

The floods that hit Southeast Asia have not only destroyed crops and livestock, but also claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of people.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified boarder, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs