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Rice Price Volatility- Why It Matters For Poverty Reduction in Myanmar

Sergiy Zorya's picture
 

There are many kinds of rice and one of the most popular varieties in Myanmar is called Emata. This word literally means that it’s so delicious that a visitor is still sitting and eating. Emata lives up to its name- people in Myanmar love it for its long grain, fluffy and slightly sticky texture after cooking. This rice variety is also one of their main exports.

People find it troubling that the price of Emata has risen by more than 40% over the last five years. The price of rice has also been fluctuating sharper than in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia. Since Myanmar’s domestic rice market is weakly integrated into global markets, domestic factors are the primary reason behind high price fluctuations.

A Bigger and Better Harvest: Myanmar’s Rice Export Opportunities

Sergiy Zorya's picture
A rice farmer in Myanmar
A farmer in Myanmar plows a rice field.
Photo: Nyain Thit Nyi / World Bank
 

I met a young rice farmer during my recent trip to Myanmar. He has a tiny plot of land on the outskirts of the irrigation system and could harvest only one rice crop a year.  Even if he worked hard, and the weather was at its best, he produced only enough rice to feed his family for 10 months. During the last two months of the rice-growing season, he would walk around his village, a small plastic cup in his hands, and ask neighbors if he could borrow some rice. This would happen year after year.

Unfortunately, this story is not uncommon. A majority of Myanmar’s laborers work in agriculture. A third of them live below the poverty line and depend on rice for survival.

ASEAN Cooperation is Crucial to Global Food Security

Bruce Tolentino's picture


There is clear and present danger that another global food price crisis will emerge sooner than later. 

A key signal is the lackluster result of the December 2013 Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Bali, Indonesia - in the heart of the ASEAN community. 

The compromises arising from the WTO Bali meeting further demonstrates that many WTO member-nations have returned to a focus on internal domestic politics, sacrificing long-term gains shared across nations, in favor of short-term gains motivated largely by domestic political survival or sheer short-sightedness.

Cambodia moves to increase exports of its "white gold" (rice)

Stéphane Guimbert's picture

To a tourist visiting Cambodia, or to a French consumer living in Cambodia (whose food habits require a complement of pasta and potatoes), rice will mainly mean the stunning landscapes of rice fields, yellow at harvest time, bright and liquid during the rainy season, with shades of green meanwhile.

Making the world a better place, one web search at a time

James I Davison's picture

We've already written about sites that let you help others while going about the mundane tasks you already do. And there's the FreeRice.com game, which lets you donate food by playing an Internet word game. Combining both concepts, there's now Hoongle.org: a modified Google search engine that donates 20 grains of rice for every web search done through the site.

Since searches are routed through Google, it's the same search results most people are already getting. The difference is this site takes revenue from referrals to Google and donates the income to the United Nations World Food Program's "Fill the Cup" campaign. The New York Times' Bits blog interviewed the site's creators, university students in Virginia who say they have already raised enough money to donate 4,000 meals, or 8.5 million grains of rice. The Hoongle FAQ page suggests you add them as your homepage or use their web browser plug-in. All in all, an easy way to make a small, yet perhaps meaningful difference.

It's also worth noting that the site seems to be currently down with "technical difficulties". Searches still work, since they are run through Google, but the rice donations have stopped for now.

(Hat tip: Poverty News Blog)

UPDATE: It seems the Hoongle project was short-lived. Shortly after we posted this, the people behind Hoongle.org put up the following message on their homepage: "Unfortunately, we have run into unexpected issues that will prevent the site from functioning as intended. Because of this, the site has grown beyond our means as college students. As a result, we have decided to go offline." No word on what happened or whether they will ever try to start up the site again, but you can enter your email address into a field on their homepage for future updates.

Rice is expensive: a blessing or a curse for Cambodia?

Stéphane Guimbert's picture

A rice seller in one of Cambodia's markets. The price of rice, a staple food for Cambodians, has doubled between July 2007 and July 2008.
Last week, I attended a very interesting seminar by the Cambodia Development Research Institute (CDRI). They presented the result of their recent study on the impact of high food prices (which the World Bank and several others financed). I found the results, presented by CDRI’s Chan Sophal, very interesting, showing the complexity of the question.

The simple reaction is that higher price of food is bad for the poor. CDRI is able to confirm some of this by tracking prices (the price of rice doubled between July 2007 and July 2008) and reminding us that food accounts for two thirds of consumption for a poor family. And there will be little substitution effect to other goods (even within food, most of the caloric intake comes from rice, also very difficult to replace–although CDRI shows that Cambodians in part shifted to lower quality rice to make up for the higher price).

Rising food prices and East Asia: trends and options

Milan Brahmbhatt's picture

Soaring food prices have suddenly become a major concern for policy makers in East Asia.  The price of rice - which provides one third of the region's caloric intake - is a particular worry.  Rice prices have been moving higher since around 2004, although this was from very depressed levels in the early years of the decade.  Prices surpassed $300 a ton in early 2006 for the first time since the late 1990s, kept moving higher, and then took off at an accelerating pace from late 2007:  up 11 percent in the the fourth quarter, then 56 percent in the first quarter of 2008 an

For the record: The Bank is *not* warning about Thailand's rice export risks

Jim Adams's picture

I see there has been some blog chatter about the World Bank's position on Thailand's rice exports. Let me take the chance here to set the record straight: Thailand is a great international trading partner, it's commited to maintaining its rice exports, and we support this action. This is very important at this time of food price hikes and it's the responsible thing to do.

Rice prices - Viewed from Vietnamese fields

Flore de Préneuf's picture

I just returned from the Mekong Delta – Vietnam’s “rice basket” – to look at the results of development projects partly financed by the World Bank. With rice prices going through the roof, I expected to see farmers enjoying a financial boom. But, reality was more nuanced and underscored how difficult it is to grow more rice at the drop of a bamboo hat.

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