Frederic Neumann, Chief Asia Economist at HSBC Global Research, highlighted in a note to clients Friday that skyrocketing rice prices present hurdles for central banks combating high inflation. He drew parallels between the current surge in food prices and the one that rocked the world in 2008, noting that shortage fears are rising for the staple food that feeds billions of people.
"The memory of the 2008 Asian food price scare sits deep," Neumann wrote.
He said, "Back then, rising rice prices in some economies quickly spilled over into other markets as consumers and governments across the region scrambled to secure supplies. It also lifted the prices of other staples, such as wheat, as buyers shifted to alternatives."
Rice from Asia accounts for about 90% of the global production. The El Nino weather phenomenon has sparked heavy rainfall and droughts across top-producing regions, such as India, which has imposed export restrictions to ensure adequate domestic supplies.
We provided readers with enough understanding that rice, which is critical to the diets of billions of people worldwide, was headed for a shortage:
To Neumann's point about spillovers, take a look at Indian shoppers panic buying rice at US supermarkets in July as they got word from overseas that India was imposing rice export restrictions. Maybe these Indian preppers are on to something...
So it begins. India has banned some rice exports and now people are panic buying up rice. pic.twitter.com/ujpm66ER3n— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) July 23, 2023
As we noted, "Buckle up, world – the rice crisis is just getting started."
India is the world's biggest rice exporter.
... and soaring prices are causing a sticker shock for consumers worldwide.
Neumann said global rice imports as a share of consumption have doubled over the past two decades, and are up about four percentage points since the 2008 food crisis. He said, "This means that disruption in one economy could have much bigger spillovers into others than in the past."
The analyst concluded: "Go easy on the curry."
For an in-depth view of which countries are likely to be hammered by El Nino, Global Chief Economist at Morgan Stanley identified the following countries:
Higher food prices usually cause social unrest. It's only a matter of time before people become outraged by the political elite.
I present: $100 of groceries. pic.twitter.com/S5SZFNv7n8— Ryan Florence (@ryanflorence) September 12, 2023
That's already underway. The clock is ticking.