Flooding in South East Asia Will Reduce the World's Rice Supply

By: Dylan Rodgers

One of the most influential foods in human history is also one of the smallest: rice.  Due to recent flooding in South East Asia their most important economic and nutritional element is threatened.  An estimated 12.5 percent of farmland in Thailand has been damaged, along with 6 percent in the Philippines, 12 percent in Cambodia, and 7.5 percent in Laos.

To put these numbers into perspective, in 2007 Thailand produced some 30 million tons of rice.  If they were going to harvest roughly the same amount this year, they will have possibly lost 3,360,000 tons of rice.  That is a huge number considering the average person eats roughly 300 pounds of rice a year.

But for these countries, this isn't simply a food shortage; it's a huge economic loss as well.  Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines are in the top eight countries in terms of rice production.  Thailand itself exports nearly 30 percent of the world's rice on its own.  This means that a possible 12.5 percent shortage could mean a huge knock to their overall economy.  And because the Asian rice industry is made up of mostly small yield farmers, the effects will be dispersed among thousands of families rather than a few large companies.

As if the world's economy isn't suffering enough, throw on a major food shortage with ripples reaching every continent, even Antarctica.  There is a chance that if this shortage actually happens, that some countries may have to find another food staple, causing the market to shift in favor of some other cereal product.

Considering the fact that rice is such an important commodity, the world market could look very different from the way it does right now.  It could be interesting to see how food around the world might change due to this unfortunate epidemic, at least for a year's time.  It is a shame though that these South East Asian countries could have more economic woes piled onto the mountain of troubles everyone is facing already.

Photo: Mark Robertson 

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