Rice prices, which last year escaped the soaring prices of agricultural products, have in turn soared on the markets, threatening the poorest people in Asia and Africa, where rice is the staple diet, with a food crisis.
In January, on the Chicago futures market, rice prices rose by 10%, reaching almost $350 per tonne. A surge which calls to mind the dynamics of the evolution observed during the recent crisis of 2008 and which confirms the trend of the rising volatility affecting all agricultural commodities, not just wheat or maize, as was case last year.
This surge in rice prices is not only due to climate hazards as some experts argue today, but two other factors which reveal the endogenous nature of risk to agricultural markets.
Firstly, an acceleration in rice imports as some States fear supply problems after the overall food price surge. Secondly, the conduct of U.S. farmers who have reduced rice sowing in favour of more profitable crops such as maize, soybeans and cotton.
Rice is yet another example which demonstrates that random climate hazards are not the only factor for the current volatility in the prices of agricultural raw materials as claimed since the last drought in Russia or the floods in Australia. Quite the contrary, the real problem lies in how market participants (producers, traders ...) and moreover certain states (China, USA, Brazil ... ), which play a major role in international trade, treat this information in a context of increasing liberalization, the dismantling of regulatory mechanisms and growing financialisation.