Regional Roundups


East Asia

Prices of rice mostly levelled or increased but at moderate pace


Prices of rice levelled off or increased but at a moderate pace in May after a surge in demand and COVID-19-related market disruptions had triggered price spikes in the March-April period. The recent easing of the upward price pressure reflects a return to more normal levels of demand amid the relaxation of lockdown measures and the onset of the 2020 harvests. The lift of trade limitations in the exporting countries of the subregion (FPMA Food Policies) also eased concerns on supply constraints. Prices, however, remained overall above their year-earlier levels in most countries. In Thailand, domestic quotations dropped in May as a result of a decline in demand for export and new supplies from the 2019/20 secondary season harvest. Price declines were also recorded in Cambodia and China (Mainland). In India, prices remained relatively stable, with the downward pressure from the record 2019/20 secondary harvest offset by large Government purchases in the past month and strong international demand. In Viet Nam, prices continued to increase in the first weeks of May, although at a slower pace than in the previous months. Despite the near completion of the 2020 “winter-spring” harvest, sustained foreign demand offset the seasonal pressure on prices. Also in Myanmar, prices of rice firmed up despite the progressive arrival of the 2019 secondary season harvest due to a reduced output and the resumption of shipments in May, after a suspension in the issuance of rice export permits since early April. In the importing countries of the subregion, prices decreased in Bangladesh with the 2020 main harvest but remained above their low levels a year earlier, after the increases between February and April 2020. In Indonesia, prices were stable and close to last year’s level on account of adequate domestic supplies. By contrast, prices strengthened somewhat for the second consecutive month in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. As for wheat and wheat flour, prices held relatively steady in most countries in May, with a few exceptions. Prices of wheat grain were stable in China (Mainland), reflecting good market availabilities from the 2019 harvest and with a near-average 2020 crop expected. Prices of wheat flour were also stable or decreased in Pakistan on improved supplies from the 2020 harvest and the Government supplying grain to millers. However, prices remained well above the year-earlier levels, after increasing in the past months due to overall tight domestic supplies. In early June, the Government lifted restrictions on the inter-provincial transportation of wheat and abolished the duties on imports in order to ensure sufficient availabilities in the country (FPMA Food Policies). In India, prices of wheat registered declines on account of improved market availabilities from the 2020 record crop, currently harvested, and distribution programmes although large purchases by the Government, despite the lockdown, tended to limit the declines. Prices of wheat flour were relatively stable in Indonesia and Bangladesh as a result of imports.