Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 11:33 UK

Hope of rice exports cuts prices

Burma rice farmers
Limits on exports had sent rice prices to record levels

Rice prices have fallen after the prospect of exports from Pakistan and Japan eased fears of a global shortage of the staple grain.

Pakistan, the world's fifth-biggest exporter, said it would permit shipments of 1 million tonnes of rice.

Rough rice for delivery in July fell to $19.32 per 100 pounds on the Chicago Board of Trade, its lowest since April 2, according to Bloomberg data.

Japan is also in talks with the Philippines over rice exports.

Rice prices hit a record of $25.07 per 100 pounds on 24 April as big producers such as Vietnam and India cut exports to safeguard domestic supplies.

Sharp falls

The Bloomberg news agency said that rice prices had fallen for a fifth consecutive day and were heading for the biggest weekly decline in almost four years.

Pakistan rice exporters "can easily" sell about 1 million tonnes on the international market, Mohammad Azhar Akhtar, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, said.

The country had halted shipments on 2 May, Pakistan's Business Recorder newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, Japan is in talks with the Philippines, the world's largest importer, about shipments from Japan's stocks of overseas rice, reports said.

The surge in rice prices, and other crops such as wheat, had triggered fears of a global food crisis.

Food shortages led to sometimes-violent protests in the Philippines, Haiti and Egypt earlier this year.

World food prices fell in April for the first time in 15 months, according to figures from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Its food price index fell to 216.7 from 217.0 in March, having surged from a figure of 141.7 in April 2007.

Wheat prices are also now down around 40% from a February peak.

The news of food price falls could ease shortages, although analysts have cautioned against being too optimistic.

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