Page last updated at 06:41 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 07:41 UK

Rice prices 'to keep on rising'

A woman selling rice in Calcutta
The price of rice has risen by 70% in the past year

Rice prices are set to keep rising as demand for the staple is outstripping production, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has said.

The Philippines-based body said in its Rice Today publication that more research was needed in how to increase rice productivity.

The price of rice has risen by as much as 70% during the past year, with increases accelerating in recent weeks.

Several rice-producing countries have put curbs on exports in recent weeks.

'Research needed'

"Longer term demand-supply imbalance is clearly indicated by depletion of stock that has been going on for several years," said Sushil Pandey, agricultural economist at the IRRI.

Cost of food graphic
A BBC News focus on the impact of steep rises in the price of rice, staple food of 3bn people
Coverage on radio, TV and online from Bangladesh, India, Philippines, West Africa and California

"We have been consuming more than what we have been producing and research to increase rice productivity is needed to address this imbalance."

The institute said several factors were behind the rise in rice prices.

Land for producing rice and irrigation water is being lost to industrialisation and urbanisation.

The growing appetite among Asia's burgeoning urban middle class, especially in India and China, for meat and dairy products is also leading to less land for rice production.

Factors such as the flooding in Indonesia and Bangladesh and recent cold weather in Vietnam and China have also hurt production, it said.

Export restrictions are in place in major rice producing countries such as India, China, Vietnam and Egypt

Rice is the staple food for about three billion people worldwide.

The prices of soybeans, corn and wheat are also near historic highs.

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