As Pakistan floods and India curbs rice exports, Africa braces for high prices

The devastating floods in Pakistan, which plunged great swaths of agricultural land under water – coupled with India's decision to curb its rice exports – risk exacerbating food insecurity in the African countries most dependent on imports from Asia.

The war in Ukraine, which sparked soaring wheat and corn prices, has hit the continent of Africa hard over the past six months. Now, a new food crisis looms as the continent faces a likely rise in the price of rice, a staple on many African tables.

The recent devastating floods in Pakistan plunged great swaths of paddy fields under water, decimating the standing monsoon harvest and threatening to disrupt the upcoming winter harvest.

Last week, India – the world’s biggest rice exporter – banned shipments of broken rice (rice fragments broken in the field or during transport or milling) and imposed a 20% duty on exports of other types as the country tries to boost supplies and calm prices after below-average monsoon rainfall curtailed planting.

Exports could plummet by 25% in the next few months, according to Himanshu Agarwal, executive director of Satyam Balajee, India's biggest rice exporter. "The prices of all grains had been rising, except rice. Now it will join this trend," said Agarwal in an interview with Reuters.

Meanwhile Thailand and Vietnam have agreed to raise rice prices to better remunerate their farmers.

"There are going to be major strains on food security in many countries," warned Phin Ziebell, an agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank.