Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 10:51 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 10:51 | SYDNEY

Stockpiling rice to feed the hungry


Fergus Hanson


26 May 2008 15:19

The Interpreter has held a few discussions on global food shortages, and on this theme just last month the cost of subsidised rice to Indonesia's poor shot up by 60 per cent: tough news considering half of its population live on less than $US 2 a day. Sharp swings in commodity prices aren't new though, and ASEAN wisely foresaw this sort of event as far back as 1979 when it established the ASEAN Food Security Reserve.

Unfortunately, that reserve has only grown to 87,000 tonnes or less than half a days supply for the 10 ASEAN countries. As Japan's Ministry of Agriculture* has observed that's insignificant and together with time consuming access procedures mean it can't effectively meet serious rice shortages such as the one experienced by Indonesia in 1997. So as ASEANs poor go hungry once again, will that 87,000 tonnes of rice be dispersed or instead kept for the weevils?

*when it comes to rice reserves it would appear the Japanese are not model citizens either. The Economist recently took aim at its 2.3 million tonne rice stockpile, which could also more helpfully be used to fill empty stomachs.