A shortage of rain in parts of India has caused the rice planting area to shrink, while in China, rains and floods across southern provinces including major rice-growing regions reignited food security concerns there.
If this is the scenario of the world’s two largest rice growers, then rice has the potential to emerge as the next challenge for global food supply after wheat, with the output of the world’s most important food staple reducing.
Despite being the number one grower, China is also the biggest rice importer. Any crop loss in China means the Asian giant will scale up its procurement from the global rice market and reduce its availability to other consumers.
Inclement weather in exporting countries in Asia, which accounts for about 90% of the world’s rice output, is also likely to change the price trajectory, traders and analysts said.
Patchy rains in India’s grain belt, a heatwave in China, floods in Bangladesh, and quality downgrades in Vietnam could curb yields in four of the world’s top five rice producers, farmers, traders, and analysts said to Reuters.
“Rice has remained accessible even as overall food prices reached record levels earlier this year,” said UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation economist, Shirley Mustafa.
“We are now witnessing weather-related setbacks in some key rice-producing countries, including India, China, and Bangladesh, which could result in lower output if conditions don’t improve in the next few weeks,” Mustafa added.
In Bangladesh, much less rain this season is delaying the planting of the second major rice crop, Aman. In the last 30 years, the average July rainfall in Bangladesh was 496 millimeters. But, total rainfall in July this year was only 211 millimeters – the lowest since 1981.
But even in the case of lower output, Bangladesh’s scope for sourcing rice from India, its traditional source of import, will diminish due to the projected lower output in India, which accounts for 40% of global rice trade, traders said.
Less rainfall in some parts of India may affect the rice product, which eventually will pose a challenge to the global food supply. Total paddy planting in some Indian states including West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh has fallen by 13% this season thanks to a lack of adequate rainfall. India has already stopped exporting wheat and sugar as part of domestic food security and to control local market prices.
Traders and food grain importers say if rice production falls, India may decide to reduce the export of the grain. This will put the country’s South Asian neighbors in severe trouble as there is not much rice import scope for Bangladesh from Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Myanmar.
However, Bangladesh’s Agriculture Minister M. Abdur Razzak told The Business Standard, “The rainfall is now normal, and we hope Aman planting will be completed by mid-August.”
According to the statistics bureau, about 1.5 crore tonnes of paddy were harvested during the last Aman season, with the yield per hectare being 2.6 tonnes.