The Rice Export stall owned by Francis Ndege in Toi Market, Nairobi, Kenya, recently has not been too busy with customers. This condition occurred after the price of rice rose. The increase in rice prices was partly triggered by India’s decision to close its rice export faucet.
At current prices, Ndege isn’t sure if his customers—most of whom live in the Kimera slum, Nairobi—can still buy rice from him.
Rice prices in Kenya have skyrocketed recently. Local farmers are unable to meet domestic needs. There are several contributing factors, such as the skyrocketing increase in fertilizer prices and the drought that hit the country. Rice production was also disrupted.
In such difficult conditions, India actually became the focus of traders, such as Ndege. Cheap rice from India can fill the empty niche in rice stocks that cannot be filled by domestic farmers. India’s cheap rice has so far made the poor and vulnerable groups earn around US$2 (Rp 30,600) able to survive.
However, the situation has recently changed completely. The price of rice has gone up by around 20 percent. Obviously, this is not easy for anyone. Since last June, the price of a 25-kilogram sack of rice has increased by 20 percent.
The situation became even more difficult after India temporarily suspended its rice exports starting the third week of last July. New Delhi reasoned that the ban on non-basmati rice exports was to reduce price increases in the domestic market. India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and General Distribution, July 20, 2023, said that in the past year, prices have increased by more than 11 per cent. In the last three months, since April 2023, domestic rice prices have increased by 3 percent.
India’s decision had far-reaching implications. The cessation of their exports created a void of around 9.5 million metric tons of rice at the global level.
This This is a new pressure for global food availability, especially for African countries. The food security of these countries had previously been under threat after Russia withdrew from an agreement that had allowed Ukraine to export grain.
The ban on the export of non-basmati rice from India has created a domino effect. A number of producing countries have also banned the export of their products to global markets. The United Arab Emirates, for example, has also suspended rice exports to maintain domestic stocks.
Not only in Africa, the price of rice in Vietnam has also gone up. The increase touched the highest price in the last 15 years. “The world is at a critical juncture,” said Beau Da-men, an official with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in Bangkok.
Before rice exports from India stopped, rice production was disrupted by the chaos of the planting season due to El Nino. The impact of this disruption to rice stocks will be felt around the world. Rice consumption in Africa continues to increase. Countries in this region do not have alternative food ingredients to replace rice or grain products, such as wheat and corn. Most African countries depend on imports.
The impact was like that of Amadou Khan. This 52-year-old man and father of five often skips rice breakfast for his five children. He’s not working anymore. “I can only survive.
Like Kenya, Senegal also depends on rice supplies from India. This situation made the Government of Senegal turn its gaze to other major rice producing countries, namely Thailand or Cambodia.
The lack of clarity regarding the next policy that India will take, coupled with concerns about the uncertain climate and weather, has made the “Country of the White Elephant” rice exporters also unwilling to release their rice to the market.
At the same time, rice mill operators do not want to release their goods to the market. At the farm level they have also increased the price of their pre-milled rice. “No one wants to take risks,” he said. (AP)
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