Food prices are on the rise worldwide. Thousands of people in Asia cannot afford to buy their daily bread, rice or maize. On the other hand not everyone is suffering -- some even benefit from the current crisis. For example by hoarding rice or maize and thus artificially increasing the price of the commodity.
The rising price of rice has prompted protests in many countries
These days one can make a lot of money with rice, at least those who consider themselves smart and unscrupulous enough. Thailand is the world's biggest exporter of rice. And rising prices are tempting some dealers to hoard their supplies in the hope to further increase the price and then earn even more money. Chookiat Opaswongse, President of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, explains: “The middle-men, the local merchants, who are actually not in the rice business. They are just coming and buying paddy and keep it in their backyards or in rented warehouses or wherever. And that, of course, takes some portion of the supply away”.
Even politicians and members of the upper classes are suspects. Whoever is in the position to hoard does so. There are already talks about shortfalls in supply. The fact that selling rice is a good business attracts criminals as well.
Just a short while ago the 'Bangkok Post' reported that 200,000 tons of rice had vanished from a government warehouse. The value was about one hundred billion US dollars. No-one knows who was behind the theft.
Trade Minister Mingkwan Saengsuwan has meanwhile asked the military to guard the warehouse. Reports from five other provinces in Thailand also say that thieves were stealing the harvest. Many rice-farmers are worried and have started to guard their paddy fields at night.
Panic among farmers
Even seeds haven't been spared. Daoruang Kijsiri a paddy-farmer found out one morning that 600 kilograms of rice seeds had been stolen. It was a severe setback for him and his family, especially as he believes that the rice goddess Phra Mae Po Sop has let him down:
“When I found out that the seeds were gone, I broke down. My wife and my son calmed me down and said everything would turn out fine. And that we would be able to buy new seeds again. But my pain can't be balanced by money. I dedicated my whole life to the goddess Phra Mae Po Sop and now this”.
There are other farmers who take benefit from the current situation. But they are just a small number and include only those who have the possibility to properly store their rice. Most of the small farmers don't have access to these facilities and have to sell their harvest to distributors. Also many don't possess the land they are cultivating. They have to pay for tenancy and cover their expenses for seeds and transport. The gains others make with their goods never reach their pockets.