Burma rise prices soar after cyclone

Rice prices in Burma’s largest city Rangoon have surged 50% since the deadly cyclone that flooded entire growing areas.

The cyclone, which killed tens of thousands of people, displaced many more and rendered many roads and bridges impassable, struck earlier this month as paddy farmers were harvesting the dry-season crop that accounts for 20% of annual production, said the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The destruction could reduce access to food and may force Burma to seek imports from neighbouring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, putting further pressure on world prices, it said. Burma has previously been self-sufficient and an exporter of rice.

The devastation also could hit global rice production, the FAO said. The agency currently is forecasting a new record of 666 million tons worldwide this year, a global increase of 2.3%.

Production in Asia is expected to rise to 605 million tons from 600 million tons, with particularly large increases in Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, the FAO said.

African production is forecast to grow nearly 4% to 23.2 million tons and in Latin America by 7.4% to 26 million tons, the agency said.

Rice production is expected to be down in Australia, the United States and Europe.

Rice prices skyrocketed by 76% from December to April, triggered in part by export restrictions in countries worried about food scarcity. The FAO said prices are expected to remain high.

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