Global Rice Shortage: How to Weather the 2023 Rice Cost Spike

July 05, 2023 6 min read

The Global Rice Shortage in 2023

Rice cost spikes, triggered by a global rice shortage, could hit the wallets of many around the globe, according to the latest Fitch Solutions report. But the good news is that there are some steps you can take now to keep your grocery bill down when this happens.

In this article, we will discuss the factors contributing to the global rice shortage and explore the impacts and possible solutions to mitigate the rising cost of rice.

The Global Rice Shortage in 2023 

Rice is an important staple food for billions of people around the world. However, in the last few years, the cost of rice has risen dramatically due to high demand and low supply. 

Imagine if there was only one toy left in the store and everyone wanted it, the store could charge more for that toy. This is similar to what's happening with the rice in the world right now.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Charles Hart, a commodities analyst at Fitch Solutions, discussed the global rice shortage and its impact. Hart said that one of the most evident consequences of this shortage is the skyrocketing prices of rice, reaching levels that haven't been seen for the past two decades.

The 2023 Global Rice Shortage is Expected To Be The Largest in 20 Years

rice prices 2023

 

The year 2023 has been marked as a tough year for the global rice market. Major rice-producing nations like China, India, and Pakistan have reported a significant drop in their rice yield. 

Furthermore, the United States Department of Agriculture recently published a rice outlook report stating that the total rice supplies for the 2023/24 season are projected to be 689.7 million tons. Unfortunately, this is a decrease of 1 million tons from the previous year and the second year in a row of declining global rice supplies. Sadly, it was also reported that it's the biggest shortage we've seen in the last 20 years. 

“The cost of rice has been rising since 2020 and will continue to do so as the world faces a global rice shortage,” says expert economists. 

SEE RELATED: 2023 Food Shortages 

Contributing Factors to the Rice Shortage 

There are several factors contributing to the global rice shortage and rice cost spikes. Here are a few of them:

Climate Change 

One of the primary factors behind the global rice shortage is climate change. The changing climate patterns have resulted in extreme weather events. These include floods, droughts, rising temperatures, cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes. 

In 2022, Pakistan was hit by severe flooding that left about a third of its territory underwater. The floods also caused extensive damage to rice crops and agricultural land in the affected areas. 

Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, climate change is projected to decrease rice production by 15% in the next 25 years. This decrease is a significant concern, considering that rice is a staple food for more than half of the world's population.

Pests and Diseases

Just like how we can get sick, plants can also get sick! Outbreaks of pests and diseases are another major factor impacting rice production. 

One of the most common pests that affect rice production is the brown planthopper. It feeds on rice plants and stops them from growing properly, which means there is less rice for people to eat. 

There are also diseases, like bacterial blight, that can wipe out a whole field of rice. These problems have been happening more often in recent years and have made it even harder for farmers to produce enough rice. 

The International Rice Research Institute states that, on average, farmers lose approximately 37% of their rice crop due to these pests and diseases. Depending on the severity of the situation, this can result in a reduction of 24% to 41% in the amount of rice available for harvest.

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Conflicts or Trade Restrictions

Conflicts or trade restrictions on rice exports from major producers can also impact global rice supplies. Furthermore, political conflicts, trade disputes, or government policies can also disrupt the rice trade and limit the availability of rice in the global market.  

For instance, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has caused Russia to stop exporting a lot of different grains, including rice. This means that there is less rice available for people to buy, and when there isn't enough of something, the price goes up.

Lastly, the price of rice doubled from 2018 to 2022, and many Asian countries are now imposing stiff restrictions on exports to protect and feed their populations.

Increasing Population: 

As the global population continues to increase (now projected to reach over 9 billion people by 2050), the demand for rice and other staple foods also goes up. 

Rice is a staple food for many countries, especially in Asia, where the population growth is high. A growing population can put pressure on rice production to meet the increased demand and, as a result, create a shortage of supply and higher rice prices.

High Fertilizer Prices

High fertilizer prices are also a significant factor contributing to rice cost spikes. 

Fertilizers play a crucial role in enhancing crop productivity and ensuring adequate nutrient supply for rice plants. However, when fertilizer prices rise, it directly affects the production costs of rice farmers, which ultimately leads to an increase in the cost of rice for consumers.

Several factors contribute to high fertilizer prices. One key factor is the cost of production and distribution, which includes expenses related to raw materials, energy, transportation, and labor. Fluctuations in these factors can influence fertilizer prices at the global level.

For instance, fertilizer production requires energy. So, natural gas is often used as a feedstock to produce ammonia, a key component in nitrogen-based fertilizers. High natural gas prices, which are influenced by the cost of fuel, can push up fertilizer prices.

Furthermore, Russia has been the biggest supplier of fertilizers—and fertilizer prices are increasing with the ongoing war, resulting in increased prices on most food items. 

Land Constraints:

The availability of arable land for cultivation is limited, especially in densely populated countries. Rapid urbanization and expansion into agricultural land have led to fewer areas available for rice farming, resulting in reduced production.

Over the last 50 years, the world has lost more than 30% of its arable land due to erosion, urban sprawl, and climate change. This means that our current agriculture system is not sustainable if we are to feed the world’s population in the coming years.

white rice cost

Average Yearly Cost Of Uncooked Long Grain White Rice in U.S. Cities (2018-2023)

Year

Average Cost of Raw White Rice (Cost per Pound) in the U.S. Cities

December 2018

$0.712

December 2019

$0.714

December 2020

$0.789

December 2021

$0.820

December 2022

$0.971

May 2023

$0.997

Source: U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics

Impacts and Solutions For Rising Cost of Rice

Food Insecurity: 

The rising cost of rice poses a threat to food security, especially for vulnerable populations. Therefore, governments must implement strategies to ensure adequate access to affordable rice. 

For instance, establishing contingency plans, diversifying food sources, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices can help ensure food security. 

Economic Consequences: 

The spike in rice costs can lead to economic instability as it affects the purchasing power of consumers, especially the ones who rely heavily on rice. Moreover, it increases production costs for businesses, leading to less investment in expansion or other economic activities. 

Governments can explore measures like price stabilization schemes, subsidies for farmers, and import diversification to mitigate the economic impact and support local agriculture. 

Promoting Agricultural Innovation: 

Investing in agricultural research and development for improved rice production techniques, disease-resistant varieties, and efficient irrigation systems can also help boost crop yields and weather the global rice shortage. 

What You Can Do To Save Yourself From Rising Rice Prices?

Explore Alternative Grains: 

Consider incorporating alternative grains such as quinoa, couscous, or millet into your diet. These grains can be nutritious substitutes for rice and may offer lower price tags.

Buy in Bulk: 

Purchasing rice in bulk can often lead to cost savings. 

Alternatively, you can also look for long shelf-life foods, such as dehydrated foods! They can save money and ensure access to affordable and nutritious food options during times of rising rice costs. Plus, non-perishable food items have a longer shelf life, can be bought in bulk, and are less affected by price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions.

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Valley Food Storage offers long-term, shelf-stable food that’s easy to buy, easy to store, and easy to eat, including RICE! Here are a few of our favorite survival food kits that include rice as their main ingredient: 

If you are not a fan of chicken, worry not! Here are a few other meat-rice long-term storage alternatives:

Meal Planning: 

Plan your meals in advance to optimize the use of rice and other ingredients. This can help reduce wastage and stretch your rice supply further.

Shop Smart: 

Compare prices and look for discounts or promotions on rice products. Consider purchasing from local farmers' markets or participating in community-supported agriculture programs to access fresh and affordable rice.

Takeaways For Rice Prices 2023

  • The global rice shortage in 2023 is expected to be the largest in 20 years, leading to significant spikes in the cost of rice. 

  • The rising cost of rice has various impacts, including threats to food security and economic instability. 

  • Both governments and communities should take some proactive measures to weather an upcoming rice shortage. 

  • You, as an individual, can also take steps to save yourself from sudden rice cost spikes by stocking up on long-term food storage.