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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).