Southeast Asia remains world rice bowl as pockets of region suffer crop disasters

Jefferson Fox

Rice crops in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have taken a hit from flooding and conflict this year, casting a shadow on a mostly sunny outlook for Southeast Asia’s output of the key grain as the region deals with other potential longer term supply troubles, farm officials and researchers say.

Poverty and hunger are stalking some rural communities in peninsular Southeast Asia, also called Indochina, as a result of lost crops, hitting populations still struggling to recover from lost income and other fallout from widespread economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, the poorest Southeast Asian nations, are not major players in rice production in a sector dominated by Thailand and Vietnam, which lead the world in exports of the grain. Southeast Asia accounts for 26 percent of global rice production and 40 percent of exports, supplying populous neighbors Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as Africa and the Middle East, according the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

But their harvest shortfalls have to be made up from other suppliers, and any serious deterioration in rice output could have ripple effects on import-dependent countries in Asia. The challenge is more acute at a time of deepening worries over food security and rising food prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has removed those countries’ key grain exports from global supplies.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2022