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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More