Brazil has banned the export of rice over fears that a supply crunch and rising global prices could threaten food supplies at home. Reinhold Stephanes, Brazil’s agriculture minister, said the move was in response to a number of other countries, mostly in Asia, who have also banned rice exports, causing an imbalance in the global rice market. The move came the same week as the World Food Programme said its budget deficit as a result of soaring food prices hit $755 million.
VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA: Brazil announced on Wednesday it has temporarily halted rice exports to ensure domestic supply amid rising world prices. Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes said the country grew more rice than it consumed and had a reserve that would safeguard supply.
REINHOLD STEPHANES, BRAZILIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Brazil’s greatest concern is having problems importing rice in the future, even though we are self-sufficient. For this reason we are going to try to maintain an internal stock.
NKWETA: Sales abroad will be blocked to make sure the country has enough of the grain for the next six to eight months. Stephanes also told reporters that Brazil will not meet recent requests by African and Latin American countries for shipments totaling nearly 500,000 tons of rice. He added that several Asian countries recently suspended rice exports to guarantee their own supplies, causing an imbalance in world markets. The move comes amidst escalating concern about drastic rises in the prices of staple foods throughout the world. The World Food Programme announced on Thursday that it now has a deficit of US$755 million in its budget as a result of soaring world food prices over the last year. Meanwhile, in an attempt to tackle the problem on a regional level on Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez joined with leaders from Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua to create a US$100 million program to fight the rising cost of food for Latin America’s poor. He also promised joint programs for agricultural development in addition to the new food security fund, though they provided no details on how the programs and fund would work. In Bolivia, where 64 percent of the population lives in poverty, residents are increasingly relying on subsidized cafés to provide them with their basic meals. In Puna, Peru, local organizations went on a general strike on Thursday to protest rising food costs.
DOMINGO APAZA, UNION LEADER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Today’s cause is a common one. We are all fighting the rise in the cost of living. That is our platform today and we reject international, national, regional and local leaders.
NKWETA: Experts expect world food prices to rise even further, which may constitute a devastating blow for the world’s poorest people, who spend more than half of their income on food.
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