Around the March to April period earlier this year, lockdowns and trade barriers across Asia due to the COVID-19 pandemic thrust rice - one of the region’s largest agricultural commodities – firmly into the spotlight potential volatility in both supply and cost.
Rice is a staple not only for countries in Asia, but also in Australia and Africa as well. This meant that it was a general prime target of any panic-buying or hoarding when the public wanted to stock up on shelf-stable foods, according to Food South Australia CEO Catherine Sayer
“Rice was one of the major food products that Australians were panic-buying when tighter control measures were announced in Australia,” Sayer told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“It’s shelf-stable, it’s filling and everyone has it in their pantry. So [although it’s] hard to quantify actual impacts that [export bans and supply drops] from Vietnam, Cambodia and China had on purchasing, [it is for sure that] many people bought a lot more than they needed as it is a staple item here.”
Vietnam, the world’s third-largest rice exporter, decided in March to implement a rice export ban to ensure local supply, and Cambodia followed suit to stop all rice exports except for fragrant rice.