Fears of a looming rice shortage were heightened today (16 April) as rice prices climbed to record highs on the back of rising demand, export bans and bad weather delaying planting in the US.

Rice prices on the Chicago Board of Trade surged to US$22.77 per 100 pounds as just-food went to press, stoking global concern about food inflation. 

“Rice prices have shot up,” a commodities analyst with Rabobank Group told just-food. “A constricted global supply means that prices are likely to stay high in 2008.”

China, Egypt, Vietnam and India, who collectively produce more than a third of the global rice supply, have cut back exports this year, while Indonesia, the world’s third-largest rice producer, said yesterday that it would only resume exports when domestic stockpiles totalled three million tons.

South Korea also announced yesterday that it would look to farm rice and other grains overseas in order to secure a stable supply.

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Meanwhile, bad weather has meant that farmers in Arkansas – the biggest rice-growing state in the US – have planted 2% of this year’s crop compared with the 31% that had been planted at this time last year, the US Department of Agriculture has revealed.

Other commodities, including wheat, corn and soybeans, have also risen to record prices this year.

The World Bank has identified 33 countries that it believes may face social unrest because of surging food costs and spiralling poverty levels.