Countries importing rice from Myanmar could be additional victims of Cyclone Nargis, the tropical storm which has killed at least 15,000 people. Although it is too early to judge the impact of the cyclone on rice exports, The World Food Programme has said “there are long-term concerns whether Myanmar can continue to maintain self-sufficiency and also whether they can continue commitments to other countries.” Countries such as The Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh had secured rice deals with Myanmar in the face of soaring rice prices and a government curb on exports imposed by India and Vietnam. The Myanmar government insists it has enough rice for its population. Prices for basic food items have soared in the wake of the cyclone, which hit the capital Yangon, on Saturday.
VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRODUCER/PRESENTER: The deadly cyclone that struck Myanmar devastated its main rice-growing region, and could threaten exports meant to ease shortages in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Bangladesh, said, the UN food agency on Tuesday. The full extent of damage to rice supplies cannot be assessed yet, because parts of the country have been cut off by flooding, and road damage caused by Cyclone Nargis, which the government says has killed more than 15,000 people. The World Food Programme has warned that flooding, which poured damaging salt water into paddy fields, could create long-term food insecurity for Myanmar and other poor Asian countries. Although Myanmar state media in April stated that it had enough supplies to feed its people, a planned shipment of 50,000 tonnes of milled rice may be delayed, as the government needs to check its stocks. WFP spokesman Paul Risley went on to state that longer-term questions of food security were a major issue of concern, because of the potentially serious effects for food supply, at a time when global supplies are short. Global stocks for rice, the staple food of half of the world’s population, have decreased by 50% since 2001, and prices in Asia have tripled, as export restrictions by leading suppliers, fuel insecurity. It is unknown whether Myanmar will need to import emergency rice supplies, if so; it is likely to inflate prices even further. Prices for basic food items, including rice and cooking oil, have soared on the streets of Yangon, since the cyclone hammered the city, on Saturday.
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