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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Australian drought doubles price of rice

RiceThose who pay attention to the world of wine already were bemoaning the fact that the drought in Australia is forcing up the price of grapes, but today's New York Times features a story about a crop that has been even more dramatically affected: Rice.

Australia's rice production has dropped by a staggering 98 percent, and the largest rice processing mill in the southern hemisphere has been mothballed as a result. This has caused the price of rice — a staple food in much of the world — to double during the last three months. Higher prices are in turn causing food riots in some of the world's poorer countries.

While there hasn't been much rain in southeastern Australia for the past six years, there has still been enough water to grow less water-intensive crops, such as wheat and wine grapes. And there's a considerable economic incentive to switch to grapes, too — even at the new, higher price for rice, wine grapes produce a pretax profit of close to $2,000 an acre as opposed to around $240 an acre for rice.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:18 AM

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