ASEAN nations can help diffuse the effects of rice price shocks by utilising a variety of measures proposed in a series of working paper from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

According to a press release published by the Manila-based bank on August 30, the measures include reducing export restrictions, placing less emphasis on self-sufficiency, retooling Thailand ’s rice pledging programme and expanding coordinated rice policies with India and Pakistan.

Lourdes Adriano, Practice Leader for Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development in the Regional Sustainable Development Department at ADB, said the rice market appears to be holding steady and current production estimates suggest that overall prices will remain stable.

He stressed this was good news in the context of worries over the global corn, wheat and soybean markets.

“To enhance resiliency and ensure that rice prices do not jump beyond the reach of the region’s poor, policy makers must think and act regionally,” said Lourdes Adriano.

The regional rice price in the period 2007-2008 saw a sudden increase, partly due to export restrictions and panic buying by importers.

Under the working papers, produced out of the recent ASEAN Rice Trade Forum organised by the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board, the ASEAN Secretariat and ADB, regional trade restrictions pushed global rice price up 149 percent.

The papers also recommended that rice importing countries lower their self-sufficiency targets in exchange for commitments from exporting countries to stay away from unilateral export restrictions.

Importing countries would feel less need to insure themselves against trade disruption and exporting countries would gain new markets, the papers said.

According to ADB, in normal weather conditions, rice output among ASEAN nations is expected to grow at 1.37 percent annually, from 110.5 million tonnes in 2010-2011 to 128.3 million tonnes by 2021-2022.

Harvests will increase by 1.22 percent annually, while harvest area will increase by 0.15 percent to nearly 47 million hectares by 2022, the bank predicted.-VNA