Price of Rice in the World Market? No Such Thing

Sept 11-17, 2023

“Prices of Rice in World Market Plummet Following PHL Price Ceiling”.  This was the headline of the press release pf the House of Representatives issued on Sept. 7, and I stared at it in complete disbelief.   


But sure enough, the press release quoted  Speaker Martin Romualdez as saying that 

“the huge reduction”  (in the prices of rice in the global market)   “can be attributed to the recent implementation of EO 39”  (see my last blog: EO 39 makes no sense)  imposing nationwide rice price ceilings.

“It is proven,” (he further crowed) “that the EO 39 of President Bongbong R. Marcos Jr. set commendable results not only in our country, (but in the world as well).”

The basis of Romualdez’ “huge reduction” in world prices, per the release, was this:  

“According to US-based Market Insider,  the price of rice in the world market decreased from $384 per metric ton last July to $332.4 per metric ton this month.” 

No Price of Rice in the World Market


Reader,  the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  – please google FAO  Rice Price Update —  “provides monthly rice export prices from major origins and is released monthly.”  The Update also provides the FAO Rice Price Indices: The All Rice Price Index,  which in turn is based on the weighted trade shares of the of: the Indica Index, the Aromatics Index, the Japonica Index, and the Glutinous Index. Moreover, the Update provides a commentary on recent market developments, which includes global rice supply and demand prospects.  Pretty comprehensive, don’t you think?


You see, Reader, there is no such thing as “the price of rice in the world market”, as quoted above.  There are only the overall price indices, and the export prices of major exporting countries. PLUS, the latest FAO Rice Price Update came out on Sept. 8, one day after the Romualdez press release.  It shows that the August rice price indices were higher compared to those in  July, and even higher compared to  August 2022:

 “The All Rice Price Index increased by 9.8% in August 2023 to reach 142.4 points. At that level,  the Index stood at 31.2% above its earlier value and at a 15-year nominal high. (Emphasis mine)

The US is not the “World Market”


This pattern is necessarily similar (because it is based on them) to that showed by the export prices of the major exporting countries.  The significant exception is the United States, which showed export prices decreasing from July to August for both US#1 and US#2 rice, and also decreasing from last August for US#1. But the US is a relatively small  player in the international rice market , producing roughly half of what the Philippines produces, and exporting about 2 MMT a year, compared to Vietnam’s 6.8MMT or Thailand’s 8.2MMT.


So, based on the evidence presented above, there has been no huge reduction in the internationally traded prices of rice.  If anything , there has been a huge increase.  So what was “US-based Market Insider” talking about?


The US “Source” Referring to Futures Prices


I could not read for myself the Market Insider report alluded to in the Romualdez press release, but according to an analyst who does not wish to be named, the price decrease “from $384 per MT last July to $332.4 this month” refers to the rough rice (palay) futures prices traded in the Chicago Board of Trade, which is part of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group .  True enough, googling CMEG, the analyst was correct.  


 And what are rough rice futures?  They are tradable, standardized contracts to receive or deliver a specified quantity of rough rice on a future date, at a pre-agreed price. They are definitely not current prices.  


In sum, Speaker Romualdez: 1) used completely erroneous data –  futures prices instead of current prices,  2) on rough rice which is produced in the United States (specifically, mostly in Arkansas and Mississipi), 3) which is traded mostly between the US and Latin America, and which, being a tiny fraction of the international trade in rice, does not affect us in any way, much less Vietnamese and Thailand and the rest of Asia –to come to the conclusion that world prices plummeted.  


Was that stupidity or cupidity? 


Stupidity for failing to ask the DA, or PIDS, or his Congressional research staff, or any of that research group supposedly managed by the Ateneo with which he signed an MOA, after all; Cupidity – to  make political points for the next election?  Either answer reflects badly on the Philippine political leadership.


Beware Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc


But for him to come to the conclusion that rice prices plummeted BECAUSE the President imposed price ceilings (EO39), is even worse.  It goes beyond the boundaries of stupidity and cupidity: 


He has fallen into a logical pitfall – the post hoc ergo propter hoc  fallacy (“after this, therefore because of this”, where one event is thought to cause a later event just because it happened earlier ) —  one that a freshman economics student is warned about in the first lecture he attends.  


The Hoarders and their “Import Rice Plans”


Add to that he makes a  baseless explicit assumption that hoarders and manipulators have cancelled their rice import plans (a demand decrease, ergo cp price decrease) as a result of the price cap.  Why should anybody have had import plans in the first place when it is the start of harvest season, and when the DA and the President already proclaimed that we have in place sufficient supply (production + imports), i.e., no need to import any more?


Or maybe his deathless desire to brown-nose his cousin – does he want to succeed him?—has warped his judgment beyond recall


Or maybe we are not faced with an either-or situation here – either stupidity or cupidity.  Maybe it is a both-and situation. 


In any case, what are we to expect from this kind of leadership? 



As I See It

The Official Blog of Winnie Monsod

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