Will Food Crisis Give Rise To A Rice Cartel?

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More evidence that there is little appetite for a free market in rice in South East Asia came in today as news spread that Thailand may be planning an OPEC-style international rice cartel—an Organization of Rice Exporting Countries. Cambodia almost immediately chimed in with its support, while the positions of Laos, Vietnam and Burma are still unclear but are expected to be favorable.
The plan isn’t going over well with Asia’s rice importing states. In the Philippines, which just suffered its second failed rice tender after Vietnam was the only country offering to sell, the proposal has been strongly denounced. Filipino politicians and editorials are describing the cartel as a "Mekong mafia."
Because many nations—including China, Vietnam and India—have imposed curbs on rice exports to secure supply for their domestic market, Thailand already exercises outsized influence on the international rice market. The OREC cartel, some fear, would institutionalize Thailand’s grip on the market. Others are skeptical, however, that rice really can be cartelized in the way oil has because rice production is vastly more decentralized than oil drilling.
Meanwhile, China has promised to develop mutant super-rice that it says will solve the problems of growing demand. Burma responded with a cyclone killing hundreds and wiping out rice crops.
Cartel plan fuels rice fear [The Australian]

Philippines Cancels Rice Tender; Futures Rebound
[Bloomberg]

Rice Gene May Help Farmers Double Harvest, Chinese Study Shows
[Bloomberg]

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