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All that's stopping a full-blown food crisis? Rice

Javier Blas
Javier Blas3/24/2022 08:13 PM GMT+08  • 4 min read
All that's stopping a full-blown food crisis? Rice
Rice is the staple diet for half the world’s population. Photo: Bloomberg
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Crises are often years in the making. But there is typically one event that stands out as the flashpoint when the panic really began. For the Global Financial Crisis, it was the collapse of Lehman Brothers. For the 2007–2008 food crisis, the trigger was Vietnam imposing an export ban on rice. Importers panicked and, in a matter of days, rice prices doubled. Food riots soon followed from Dakar to Bangladesh.

The world is once again facing a critical juncture in food prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has upended one of the world’s most important breadbaskets, pushing the cost of wheat to an all-time high. Vegetable oil and corn prices are also surging. Food-importing nations are understandably worried. Thankfully, there is enough rice this time around for prices to remain subdued.

Rice matters because it is the staple diet for half the world’s population, including about a billion undernourished people living in Asia and West Africa. The worst food riots during the 2007–2008 crisis were not about the price of bread, but the cost of a bowl of rice. Right now, rice is all that is standing between us and a full-blown food crisis.

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