Vietnam, the world's third largest rice exporter, recently decided to lift ahead of schedule the ban on rice exports, which was set to last until late May. This once again triggered the world's discussion on food security and global industrial chain under the new crown epidemic crisis.
In order to "ensure the national food security during the outbreak", Vietnam announced on March 24 that it would suspend signing a new rice export contract from that day, forbidding the export of all kinds of rice products in any form, and thus became the first country to declare the prohibition of grain export since the outbreak. However, 17 days later, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Chun Fu announced on April 10 that rice exports would resume.
Concerns about the decline of domestic food supply capacity are the core reason why Vietnam originally issued the ban on rice export. Affected by climate change, the precipitation in the Mekong River Basin has been declining since the summer of 2019, and Vietnam's agricultural planting in the Mekong River Delta has been seriously affected. Urbanization also reduced the rice planting area in Vietnam. Many uncertainties brought by the new epidemic have cast another shadow on the anti risk ability of Vietnam, a traditional agricultural country.
The decline in production and panic buying triggered by the epidemic have led to a sharp rise in international rice prices. The price of rice in Vietnam exceeded $400 per ton in March, the highest since December 2018, the Nikkei Asia review quoted the Thai Trade Commission as saying. Nevertheless, Vietnam's rice exports in March were down 40% from the same period last year.
This time, Vietnam took the lead in introducing the rice export ban, which in a short time triggered the "domino effect" of controlling grain export and setting up trade barriers in the international scope. According to incomplete statistics, in addition to Vietnam, at least 13 countries have introduced policies related to limiting crop exports, including India and Thailand, the world's top two rice exporters. In the context of economic globalization, rice importers are scrambling to stock up, while major exporters are restricting their shipments. This will only lead to the imbalance of supply and demand in the global food market, and active speculation. If not controlled, the food crisis that occurred in 2008 may be repeated.
With regard to the risk of food problems, the food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has already stated on its official website: "unless we take rapid action to protect the most vulnerable links, ensure the smooth global food supply chain and mitigate the impact of the spread of the epidemic on the entire food system, we will face the risk of food crisis."
The International Food Policy Research Institute published an article on March 27 entitled "covid-19: trade restrictions are the worst way to ensure food security", recognizing that countries have concerns about food supply under the epidemic situation, "there is nothing wrong with ensuring their own food security". The world food programme recently pointed out that more than 800 million people in the world are chronically malnourished and more than 100 million people need food aid. The new outbreak may further undermine the efforts of humanitarian organizations and food security organizations to reverse this trend. The article of the International Food Policy Research Institute points out that it is more important to strengthen international coordination on food issues. Only when trade channels remain open, international markets and price levers can play a role in avoiding food shortages.
Under the influence of Limited exports from various countries, whether China will have a "food crisis" has also aroused widespread concern and discussion. Wei Baigang, director of the development planning department of the Ministry of agriculture and rural areas, stressed at the press conference of the joint defense and control mechanism of the State Council held on April 4 that the recent rise in international food prices is more the impact of panic consumption caused by the epidemic. China's net grain import is 14.68 million tons, less than 30 billion jin, accounting for about 2% of China's total grain consumption. The impact of rising international food prices on domestic food prices is very limited. The most important thing is that China has sufficient stocks of wheat and rice. Once the grain market fluctuates, China has sufficient means of regulation and control to stabilize, and is fully capable of coping with external influences.
Some analysts believe that the impact of policies on people's psychology and market stability is far greater than the epidemic itself. In other words, in an extraordinary period, the market urgently needs governments to make targeted deployment to stabilize food production, supply, transportation and logistics. At the same time, strengthening multilateral cooperation related to food is essential to cope with the impact of the epidemic on the international food market. Li Keqiang, premier of the State Council of China, also reiterated at the special meeting of leaders of ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea (10 + 3) to fight against the new crown epidemic, which ended on April 14, "we should give full play to the role of the 10 + 3 rice emergency reserve and other mechanisms, strengthen cooperation among countries, ensure food supply and market security in the region, and prevent food crisis."
Generally speaking, when the epidemic situation is still severe, including the food problem, "no country is absolutely safe.". It is the right attitude for all countries to work together on all issues to fight the epidemic.